I learned about this book from the UK book show “The TV Book Club” I have read a couple of books from the show, and it’s probably one of the only places I seek to find new books from other than saying randomly at the library.
I have generally mixed feelings about this book. I completely forgot the premise and the structure from the segment on the show I watched back in July. In short the book is a series of short stories and while the characters are all connected in some way to two of the “main” characters, you don’t really see it until the latter half of the book. Also, the narrative structure differs from chapter to chapter: first person, second, third, editorial style, etc. There is one wonderful chapter done in a graphical slide show format which was the highlight of the book.
The characters are hard to grasp since some of them only show up for one chapter. It also felt experimental at times which can be good actually. I think it worked out for the most part. I don’t know if I would recommend this book to everyone because the uneven structure can be confusing at times especially if you read books in small sittings (which I didn’t so it was ok for me to keep track of mostly).
I was a bit surprised to hear that this book won the Pulitzer Prize. I have read a lot of Pulitzer prize winners over the years, but this may not be the most memorable. To the book’s merit, I think Egan does showcase how transient life is in these stories. By jumping around time, the reader sees how people change, but you won’t necessarily see how those changes happen. I guess this makes the book more realistic, but I can see how some people who like more linear and regular narration wouldn’t enjoy that. I will say, I liked a couple chapters more than others.
If you are interested, you can watch the Youtube video of the book on “The TV Book Club” here:
Read on January 16th, 2012.