Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels

Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels is a stunning piece of historical fiction that I both admired and was frustrated by.

It tells the story of people who's lives have been effected by the holocaust in some way. In fact, the book is told in two pieces; the first is narrated by a survivor of the holocaust, and the second by someone who's parents were effected by this historical disaster.

The first and main narrator is Jakob, a Jewish boy from Poland who finds himself hiding in the woods after his family and killed and taken to camps. He is rescued by a liberal minded Greek archaeologist Athos who hides Jakob throughout the war and raises his as his own son. The book follows Jakob as he reaches adulthood and he and Athos move to Canada and start a new life there.

The second narrator is a young man named Ben, who was born in Canada to parents who were themselves fugitives from the war torn Europe. Ben greatly admires Jakob's poetry and having met Jakob once, feels as though Jakob has had a significant impact upon his life.

There are definitely aspects of this book that I greatly admire; the most significant being the writing. The writing is vivid and flowing, it almost feels as though you are reading poetry rather than a novel. This style is perfectly suited to the task of exploring the effect of war on people who find themselves fugitives in some way or another from the disaster that it creates.

Having said that, this novel failed to win me over.

At times a little too much was left to the imagination. I felt as though there was very little story actually taking place. This in a way makes sense because you are primarily watching Jakob's life unfold - but the reality is just watching someones life unfold in pretty uninteresting. That's why in fiction there is usually a plot to keep the story moving along. The book needed more story, more action. It was just really sow at times.

Whilst I appreciated the idea behind having the two narrators, in the end I found it unsatisfactory and unnecessary. Jakob narrates almost the entirety of the book and it is not until right at the end that the second narrator takes over. By that time I had spent so much time reading about Jakob that I wasn't interested in what someone else had to say about him, especially someone seemingly so totally unconnected with him.

Fugitive Pieces won the Guardian Fiction Award in 1997 as well as the Orange Prize in 1997. It is undoubtedly a good book, with beautiful writing and important messages.

However, whilst I greatly admire the idea behind the story and Michaels's poetic writing, the story itself lacked enough content to thoroughly satisfy me.




5 / 8:
Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there is no need to prioritise it.


I would be greatly interested to know if anyone else has read this book and felt as unsatisfied as I did, despite being able to acknowledge how wonderfully it is written?

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