5 Stars - Highly Recommended/The Next Best Book
This seems to be a common theme for me lately - reading books I would not normally have read from authors I would not normally choose to read on my own, and absolutely LOVING the hell out them!
And that is a sad thing, isn't it? The thought of having missed out on this novel, of walking by it when it hit the bookstores next month without a flicker of interest had it not been made available to me for review through Graywolf Press, of possibly never having had the experience of reading anything by this author, makes me feel a little sick.
Perhaps I should give you some history first. To explain why I may have passed this book by. Before I commence with all of my gushing and oohing and aahing and all.
There are a few things that contribute to my lack of initial interest in a novel, and they tend to coexist and follow one after the other. (Keep in mind that this is not something I am proud of, necessarily, and am working very hard to overcome.)
1. Usually, the story-line fails to grab my attention. If the books premise doesn't sound like something I can get into, I will usually skip it. For those of you who know me, or follow the books I've read, you will know that I have pretty eclectic tastes when it comes to reading. Basically, if it is Historical Fiction, War Fiction, Romance, or Non Fiction, it gets pushed to the wayside. Everything else is fair game. So it takes a lot for me to drop or refuse a book at this point.
2. If it makes the story-line cut, I move on to the back cover blurb. If I lose interest here, it's because the novel's back cover blurb doesn't sell it's finer points. If I am still a little 'iffy' about, I move on to step 3.
3. Do a test read of the first two pages of the novel. If a book cannot grab my interest in the first two pages, I won't be fully engaged with it. It's bound to be a struggle, and struggling knocks my star rating down to a three, at the very best. There have been numerous novels that I have picked up in the bookstores that have passed the story-line and blurb tests, and failed miserably when I cracked it open to test read.
Now, considering the fact that I had never read anything by Per Petterson , I was familiar with his name. He is best known for his multi-award winning 2005 English release of Out Stealing Horses and I Curse the River of Time was being talked up quite a bit, and expectations were being set awfully high for this pre-release. So I took a peek, and took the plunge.
This one was tricky, though, because it would have normally failed my first two tests.
The buzz surrounding it promotes it as novel that takes place during the fall of Communism in Norway in the late Eighties. Going by the blurb, it sounds like a story that is going to be hard to follow, with lots of subplots and flashbacks. And it seems to guarantee a good cry (I hate good cries, I hide from good cries). The blurb also reinforces my original assumption that it is a war-ish kind of novel, or, at least, a novel that revolves around wartime. The blurb does not do the book justice!!
As for my final test, I couldn't test read since it was an ARC from the publisher, but it came highly recommended by my friends at Graywolf. However, it would have passed the test read with flying colors since the writing is absolutely superb right from the start! Once I did finally crack it open I knew, I just knew, it was love at first sight. Or first read. Or whatever!
Per Petterson has a mesmerizing way with words. He takes this story of Arvid, a thirty six year old man in the middle of a divorce who has just been informed that his mother is dying of cancer, and manages to transform it into this incredibly emotional experience through his stunning prose.
Similar to Cormac McCarthy in delivery and style, Petterson seems to chose each word so carefully, placing them together so perfectly, that the reader is helplessly swept up in the tale. He surrounds you with images and feelings, rather than scenery. The words fall away and leave you encompassed by textures and smells. I Curse the River of Time refuses to be read. It begs to be experienced. It becomes a tactile, sensorial thing. It crawls it's way under your skin and sleeps there, comfortably.
Am I crossing a line? Gushing too much? That cannot be possible. This book deserves all the early praise it's received and then some. It should be read by anyone and everyone who calls themselves a reader. It should be placed on everyone's Must Have lists. It should not be missed.
It will become the book that Per Petterson is best known for.
It has become my 'Next Best Book'!! It is 'Bookwhore Worthy'. Prepare for me to promote the living hell out of this one. It has quickly worked itself up to Jose Saramago, Cormac McCarthy, and Jules Verne status. (Those of you who know me well will understand what an achievement that is.)
Do not judge this book by its blurb. Do not walk past this book in the bookstores when it hits the shelves next month. Do not leave the bookstore without purchasing yourself a copy.
DO - come here once you have read it and share your reaction and impression with me. I cannot wait to hear what you think!