ISBN: 987 0 099 49715 8
I was excited to finally borrow this book from my local library. I heard about it at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2009 at an event I attended where various different international authors read from their works. I had never heard of Dutch author Cees Nooteboom, but the way in which he read an excerpt from this book excited me, and ever since I had hoped to read this book.
I don't know if it was just that I had such high expectations after having been so impressed by te author's reading of this book, but I was disappointed by it.
Here is the synopsis from the back of the book:
"Alman and Almut share a fascination for Australia and its ancient peoples; their ceremonies, sand drawings and body painting. After Alma suffers a traumatic attack, they board a cheap flight from Sao Paulo to Sydney, and together begin their journey across their secret continent. Alma slowly recovers through a brief love affair with an Aboriginal artist, and both women become involved with the Angel Project in Perth, where actors dressed as angels are concealed around the city for the public to discover.
In a seemingly unconnected story, a man staying at a remote Alpine Spa unexpectedly meets a woman he encountered years before and with whom he shared a single night. It was in a faraway city and she was dressed as an angel."
To be honest, I am not even sure where to start reviewing this book. It feels a bit like the author was trying to be deep and meaningful, but I am unable to get through to the meaning. No doubt some people will like the challenge that this poses, but it is not for me. I don't mind a challenge, but I don't like that challenge to be attempting to find some deeper meaning in the book.
As is intimated in the synopsis above, this book is written in two parts. The first part is the story of Alma, a young brazilian girl who is the victim of a horrific gang rape (at least, that is what I think happened). She then decided to travel to Australia with her friend Almut in search of healing through the exploration of the Aboriginal culture. She does find healing, through a series of trips throught AUstralia, including her particiaption in a literary festival in Perth.
The second part is the story of Erik Zontag, who has decided to attend a health spa in the hopes of regaining some of his sense of self (I think that was his purpose anyway). It is only through Erik's story that we learn he met and, in a sense, fell in love with Alma when their paths briefly crossed in Perth.
I don't think I am giving too much away here, it is pretty obvious as the book goes along that Alma and Erik are the two characters that have previously known in each other. What I don't, cannot, understand is how their meeting has had such a significant impact upon Erik and I cannot figure out the meaning of their final conversation toward the end of the book.
There is so much about this book that is left for the reader to figure out, or decide upon. I am not a fan of this method at all.
Post Script: Since writing this review I have done a little more research about this author and this book. When I say a little more research, what I mean is that I listened to an interview with the author in the car this morning, a podcast entitled "In conversation with Cees Nooteboom", in which his book Lost Paradise is discussed. I have to say that it still didn't make things much clearer for me, but I have provided the link in case anyone is interested in knowing more about Cees Nooteboom and Lost Paradise.
What kind of read is this?
It is a very short book, but a challenging read because nothing is explained in a straightforward manner.
Do I recommend this book.
No, I wouldn't recommend it to someone. It was horrible, but I really didn't enjoy it.
Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No. See above.
3 / 8
Couldn't get into it, but finished it because I felt like I should.