Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis
|Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: There's an enigmatic feel to this novel as a young woman shares her lonely existence in post-war Germany with the reader. The weird and wonderful of Berlin are paraded before us along with a smattering of acquaintances.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 224||Date: November 2010|
We first meet the main character (she's mentioned on almost every page) Tatiana as a newish resident of Berlin. She's Mexican so quite a difference in cultures for her to deal with, as well as the weather aspect. Many episodes in her life seem to take place in a Berlin which is bitterly cold. Aridjis chooses the first person for her novel, so we hear everything from Tatiana's perspective.
We hear a little about her background and childhood. Growing up in a large family so now she fully appreciates and savours having her own space. But, even as a resourceful and intelligent young woman, she can get a little lonely at times. Work fills in some week-day hours but it's those week-ends that drag. And a nice touch here is that we are conscious of the Berliners rushing around, carrying out their 9 to 5 jobs with that famous German efficiency, while Tatania sits on the sidelines to a certain degree. She's got more than enough time to dally, to think, to linger and even to talk to people - but she appears a bit anti-social. It's almost as if, intrepid traveller that she is, she doesn't 'do' people. Make of that what you will.
Straight away I was struck, not so much by the characters (there are only a handful, if that), nor even the plot (minimal) but by Aridjis's poetic and creative language. There are many, many examples of her style throughout this novel. And as befitting the beguiling title, there's numerous mentions of clouds, storms, rain etc. All of this gives the book a floaty, misty feel. It's almost as if it's impossible to get to grips with the characters. They appear elusive - even dream-like. One example of this is very early on in the story where Tatiana is positive she's seen Hitler - in the guise of a wizened, old woman. She also thinks Berlin is a city of evil. Recalling atrocities of the second world war does not help. We also get an impromptu tour guide in the shape of Tatiana; both overground and underground. Many destinations are in unpronounceable German, of course. Tatiana is an excellent guide. She has the happy knack of looking at things with searching eyes and then telling the reader about it in her own manner. It doesn't matter what the subject matter is - dog, city pigeon or piece of modern architecture in the city centre, she gives them all her distinct treatment. The seediness of Berlin is documented here alongside eccentric and colourful characters.
Aridjis reminds the reader that she is living in a city which used to be divided in two by the notorious Wall (it's always given a capital letter). We experience fleetingly the grey east and the altogether brighter west. There is quite a bit of Berlin history in this novel which is totally in keeping with the subtle plot and is not out of place.
The plaudits on the back cover are full of praise for this novel but I didn't enjoy it as much as I was expecting to. I was a little under-whelmed. But I did appreciate and enjoy Aridjis's creative use of words and also her writing style.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might enjoy The Spy Game by Georgina Harding.
You can read more book reviews or buy Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis at Amazon.com.
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