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Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Complex but beautifully written novel of ideas, Jan. 17 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: In America (Hardcover)
Susan Sontag's National Book Award winning "In America" is a beautifully written but complex - if not difficult - novel of ideas. Boasting some of the most gorgeous prose ever committed to print, it is bursting with heartfelt yearning and promise for the future as it traces the path taken by the celebrated stage actress Maryna and her community of friends, who embittered by their history of colonisation by the Russians, chose to leave Poland in the late 19th century to build a utopian commune in America. Their grand agrarian experiment to rediscover the vitality of simple living and return to basics fails. Due to lack of experience or otherwise, Maryna's commune comprising scholars, writers, painters and their families, breaks up and some of them return to their former lives in Poland. Maryna herself, after a brief period of self imposed exile returns to active professional life and quickly establishes herself as a celebrity once again but this time in her newly adopted country. "In America" raises a whole cache of fascinating ideas. It contrasts the inherent cynicism and corruption of old world values with the innocence, optimism but also shallowness of new world morality. Sontag's ambitious novel starts off promisingly, using an unnamed female narrator who then mysteriously disappears, never to show up again. The narrative then segues seamlessly into a penetrating and fascinating peek into the Polish soul. Using a blend of shifting perspectives, the experience is both insightful and mesmerising. But when the utopian commune breaks up, some of the magic in Sontag's writing also evaporates. Certainly I found the final 100 pages or so a little pedestrian. The use of a jumble of literary formats including letters, poems, rotating confessions, etc also gives a slightly disjointed and unstructured feel to the book. The concluding section featuring a soliloquy by Edwin Booth emerges from nowhere to close the book ! Talk of abrupt endings. However, the high points were so absorbing I was too far away in seventh heaven to notice or mind. "In America" is an outstanding literary achievement. It may not make easy reading but it'll repay your effort many times over. Don't miss it !
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