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With all the advanced hype for this book, I was expecting something more sweeping and detailed than this--more like The Goldfinch or The Signature of All Things. I'd pre-ordered so I didn't know it was only 7.5 hours, which, of course, means this a much smaller, tighter novel--despite it's 30+ year timespan and historical setting.
Even so, I assumed it would at least grab me from the beginning, which it definitely didn't.
Yes, the prose is arresting and interesting and full of beautiful phrases, but Edoardo Ballerini's almost singsong pronouncement of every sentence of part 1 (which is almost all narration and inner monologue) made the writing sound almost ridiculously pretentious at times. But maybe I was just feeling a little duped by all the press surrounding this debut novel.
Or maybe it just took me a while to get into the rhythm of the book.
Whatever the reason, once I started part 2 (there are 3 parts) I was hooked. And once Ballerini got some dialogue and deeper character development to sink his teeth into, he was excellent. And although the book is about grief and suffering, it--like all really good fiction--ultimately makes you feel closer to what it means to be alive and human, if that makes sense.
As for the historical aspect, the Revolutionary War setting is more or less just background to what amounts to a story about the personal interactions between a handful of people in that place at that time. The few period details that are included are meticulously chosen and never gratuitous, but there are nonetheless some nice history-nerd-worthy passages, particularly regarding textiles: bolts of silk with floral vine patterns, a packet of yellow thread, and women at a soldier's tea reflexively smoothing their stomachers.
If I had to compare this with another novel, I would say it's reminiscent of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Different war and different type of plot (Cold Mountain is more of a quest/journey thing) but similar elegant writing styles that evoke a very specific region and place in American history, as well as equally memorable characters.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
As usual, Edoardo Ballerini interprets the characters so well, he elevates a fairly good book to a level of excellence.