The Quiet Twin Hardcover – Jan 25 2011
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
Giller Prize–shortlisted and globally acclaimed author DAN VYLETA is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. Though he now calls Canada his home, he lives and teaches in the UK. His debut novel, Pavel & I, was published in thirteen countries and translated into eight languages. His second novel, The Quiet Twin, was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His most recent novel, The Crooked Maid, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a Globe and Mail Book of the Year. Visit him online at danvyleta.com and on Twitter @danvyleta.
Top Customer Reviews
The book blurb will tell you what you need to know of the plot, but allow me to say this is a novel of intricate subtly and slight of hand -- things are not always as they seem. In the afterword, Vyleta says: "My primary interest in this book belonged with the arm of opportunists whose crimes were at times as grave in their consequences as those perpetrated by the true believers. Sixty-five years after the Second World War it is easy for most of us to convince ourselves we could never have belonged amongst those who would have held wrong-headed beliefs; it is a more nagging question to wonder what one might have done in order to secure some modicum of social and material success."
Set in a claustrophobic apartment block the novel's vividly-rendered characters watch their neighbors and speculate about the violent going-ons so that what is public and what is private is called into question -- threat builds and the bodies mount up, but the assumptions drawn, by reader and characters alike, shift and then shift again. It's masterfully done.
The tone of the novel, the shrouded backdrop of National Socialism and all that implies -- so rancid and corrosive -- acts as another central character. Mood and atmosphere simply ooze off the pages. There are shades of "Rear Window" here, if that play had been written by Goebbels.
For me not great reading......
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Dr Anton Beer is asked to visit the disgraced professor, Speckstein, who asks him to investigate the murder of his dog. Beer becomes aware of a series of murders and attacks which have taken place near to his apartment building and reluctantly becomes involved in the police investigation, although the murders are really incidental to the real story, which is that of the characters. Becoming involved with the police at that time, in that place, is a dangerous thing to be and Beer tries desperately to keep his private life private, while becoming more and more embroiled in the police enquiry. The detective, Teuben, is also an excellently creepy villain – poking and prying through Dr Beer’s life and the secrets of both him and his fellow neighbours.
The author tells this story so vividly that I found it easy to imagine the windows overlooking the courtyards; the nosy neighbours, turned informers, who could know something about you which could be dangerous. You can feel the menace of uniforms, especially in an excellent scene set during a party effectively gate crashed by members of the party, as war entered the lives of normal people. Dr Beer is a sympathetic and very believable hero. Altogether a wonderful book, very atmospheric and brilliantly written. “The Crooked Maid,” also features characters from this first book and I look forward to reading on, as I enjoyed this very much.
In that way, there is nothing more difficult in this profession than reviewing a truly great book. Bad books are easy to write about - albeit a complete waste of time, hence I rarely expend effort on them, reasoning why should I work harder than the author? Most books, including some excellent ones, can have their first act revealed while doing no harm to the future experience:
Gatsby wants to win Daisy's love.
Hamlet sees a ghost and realizes he must avenge his father's death.
Two drifters slaughter a Kansas farm family.
But in the case of a book like Dan Vyleta's 'The Quiet Twin' it is metaphorically tempting to just point at a door and say, 'Go in. Trust me. It will be worth it.' For while this work can be described as a mystery or thriller or story of suspense to those demanding the application of genre that implies that Vyleta is playing by the rules of the game. He doesn't and that is his genius.
A reader expects and wants the twist to the plot and there are many of those in 'The Quiet Twin'. Yet, these are not the fat, hammy twists of an angelic character suddenly revealed! as an ax murderer. Vyleta's twists are much more subtle and ever-shifting. In this story set in the Vienna of 1939 - World War Two plays in the background like a very distant thunder - those that appear Good may yet have aspects of Evil or is it that the Evil is in the cause of Good? Everything makes sense in the narrative, yet nothing works out as is expected.
And yes, we have seen this done before. It has been done before in books set in a place that -
Let me put it to you this way. Let us imagine a line, like the number lines we all studied in our youths. At one extreme is absolute and acknowledged Evil, at the other is the same clear face of Good. But in the middle, where they meet, does either exist? What is this place?
It is Greene Land. Graham Greene Land. For my money, the late British genius remains the greatest author of the modern era to never win the Nobel Prize of Literature. Who knows?, perhaps that is even a more impressive title than to actually have won one. Faulkner, Hemingway and T.S. Eliot all won for less than their best work.
Regardless, Greene wrote consistently of Greene Land wherever he found it in the world, just as Faulkner had the American fallen antebellum south, Hemingway the world of men with both poetry and violence in their souls and Eliot ...
Yes, Eliot understood Greene Land. And if I have not made it obvious already, Dan Vyleta knows this place well. I refer you to what I would argue is Eliot's greatest poem, 'The Hollow Men'. The first stanza:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For these are the images of 'The Quiet Twin' - shadow and straw, rats, cellars and broken glass. For these are the sounds of 'The Quiet Twin' - whispers within a silent yet noisy world, or speaking not with words but an eye blink. For these are the desires of 'The Quiet Twin' - to want and yet not to have.
Greene Land is a border where the world faces itself. Dan Vyleta's book very much has such a place. A courtyard amidst opposing apartments and suites where the tenants can watch one another (for Alfred Hitchcock in 'Rear Window' - he too understood Greene Land).
And what tenants they are. I will tell you no names, for they hold their own discoveries. A doctor, a shamed academic, housekeeper, janitor, crippled child, mute, mime and trumpeter. Each are exquisite and you, the reader, will want to trust them but will fear them or will you trust them again? And that is precisely how they feel about one another. Who do you trust? Or who do you mistrust the least? Or who do you have to trust because there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide?
Their mingled stories are told patiently. Nothing is rushed. But the set-pieces, whether it is the mime's performance, or a party, or the curiousity about whether a man wears a wig or not; each will lock itself in your memory like the great black-and-white cinematic images of Carol Reed, Sven Nyqvist, or Orson Welles
Who played Harry Lime
In The Third Man
Set in Vienna
Written by Graham Greene
It is a pity Welles or Reed are not alive to make the film version of 'The Quiet Twin'.
Dan Vyleta knows Greene Land for he has effectively lived in it. I rarely refer to author's lives as they rarely are germane to the novel discussed. In this case, the reference is apt. His parents were refugees from Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, making their way across the frontier to Germany in the 1960s. Their son Dan eventually made his own way to Canada. This is a man whose own biography is etched in chiaroscuro lit borders.
To read Dan Vyleta is akin to picking up 'Brighton Rock' in 1938 and realize you are in the presence of an author in complete command of every word and syllable. If you love reading - and why would you be here if you didn't? - you will love this book.
And that's the final word.
what can i say-the story is amazing, full of twists and turns
this is a "can't put it down" book
where has this writer been that i am just now reading his books
why are there no awards to let others know about his books
i hadn't read a 5 star book in quite a while