Wednesday, April 21, 2004

book reviews

the impressionist: by hari kunzru
a gorgeously written book about the trials and tribulations of Pran: a half indian, half englishman growing up in the early twentieth century. it contains fascinating tidbits of history, and many glimpses about how horribly we treat our fellow man. the tale is mostly told from the point of view of Pran who is passed from life to life, rich, poor, prostitute, servant, student, and so on. the narrative occassionally wanders into the points of views, lives and histories of other characters. this is something that generally annoys me, but it works here mainly on the strength of kunzru's characters who are all pop off the page, and the borderline magical realism of the story. the story could have come across as stilted staged and forced, but it doesn't, it all seems inevitable. well worth a read. the ending does leave me with the feeling that another book is coming about this character however ( although it is by no means a disatisfying ending)

band of brothers, by steven ambrose.
i'd actually reccommend the HBO series over the book. not that the book is bad, it is good, and it fills in some larger details that the TV series can't quite cover. But the TV series does a much better job of telling the emotional story behind the company, and behind some of the characters especially. This is helped a great deal by the interviews with veterans at the beginning of each episode. I'm sure that the show had to change some stories slightly (i noticed a couple small discrepancies in some of the action described), but it actually seemed to have more of individual characters -- two episodes stand out: captain winters charge on a company of SS caught at unawares in Holland (the island of something) and the emotional aftermath, and the story of the battle of the bulge told through the eyes of one of the medics. neither story in its entirety was in the book.

the one thing that did stand out more in the book was language, in particular through the letters of one private, the son of a wealthy family who refused promotions, and never volunteered for anything ( except for the paratroopers that is ), his views on the army, the germans and the war on general i thought were fascinating, and it is almost worth reading the book for that alone.


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