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?

The results are in on labels in the sidebar!

Well, it seems that the label widget in my sidebar is here to stay!

15 lovely people participated in the poll are the results were as follows:
  • 5 people often use the widget to navigate other blogs
  • 8 people rarely use the widget to navigate other blogs
  • 2 people never use the widget to navigate other blogs
Given that is a total 13 people who use it to navigate other blogs at sometime or another, it seems as though it is a useful widget to have in the sidebar.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion - overall I would say that most people agreed that the biggest use labels has was as a tool for organising and accessing their own posts.

The other most common theme in the discussion was that most people found the label widget useful when they discovered new blogs. They use it as a tool to determine what the blogger enjoys and commonly reads and whether or not they share the same literary tastes and interests.

I hope that this was useful to everyone, and it was certainly useful to. Another poll come your way soon.

The Day We Had Hitler Home by Rodney Hall (Australian fiction)

The Day We Had Hitler Home by Rodney Hall is one of the strangest books that I have ever read, and although I enjoyed it, I am really not sure what to make of it. 

Hall sets his story during and post-WWI. As a result of a mistake, a young Hitler arrives in a country Australian town at the conclusion of WWI, unable to see and unwilling to communicate with those that can offer him assistance. He is taken in by an average Australian family, consisting of the story's heroine Audrey McNeill, her elder sister Sibyl, Sibyl's womanising husband Immanuel and their adopted son.

However implausibly, Audrey then convinces her family that they need to help him flee the country, and she uses this as her excuse to escape the doldrums of her daily existence and begin a cosmopolitan life in Europe.

Whilst in her care, Audrey develops a fascination with and an attraction of sorts to Hitler - forming a relationship with him in her own mind that she continues to explore in a way once she arrives in Europe and until the rise of Nazism has an irrevocable impact upon her life and that of her lover's daughter.

It is the implausibility of this story that makes it so bizarre. How could Hitler possibly have found himself blind in an Australian country town? It seems to have no other purpose than to give Audrey an excuse to begin a new life elsewhere.

Is Rodney Hall trying to convey a deeper message in The Day We Had Hitler Home or is this book simply a comedy with a more serious edge?

The book certainly lends itself to comedy. Audrey is completely naive and totally absorbed with herself and Hitler plays the role of a slapstick comic relief character most of the time, a role that seems unsuited to the man responsible for WWII and the Holocaust.

I enjoyed this book; there was certainly nothing wrong with it and it was an interesting read, if bizarre. But it did leave me wondering what the point of it was?

5.5 / 8
Enjoyable and well written. Worth reading if you have the opportunity.

If anyone else read this book and can shed some light on this issue I would love to hear from you.