Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels

For once, a book that lives up to its cover praise – combining near-poetic prose with the gravity of great tragedy and redemption.

The first 2/3 are clear and affecting, the unusual love between Athos and Jakob is convincingly portrayed, as they (and the author) find beauty and value in the small pleasures of life after having experienced great cruelty and deprivation.

The last 1/3 becomes disorienting, as Michaels switches without explanation to other narrators. Eventually the reader realizes she is telling a different survivor’s story, paralleling Jakob’s.  This portion feels less successful, yet there is still the same lyrical quality and surprising revelations.  Eventually the two strands are tied together, though not all is explained (why did Jakob and Michaela not return from Athens – were they killed?)  Perhaps a second reading would illuminate – which in this case is less critique than acknowledgment of the depth and complexity of this novel.  The prospect of a second read is a pleasure to be anticipated, rather than a necessary chore.

A book to keep, to revisit, to learn from. A winner.

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