Dark Matter by Juli Zeh

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Dark Matter by Juli Zeh

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This is an enticing - and enchanting - philosophical novel from the pen of German writer Juli Zeh. It's centred around academic matters, the characters' life decisions and of their unintended consequences.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 978-1846552083

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Dark Matter is translated from German and nothing has been 'lost in translation' here. The lives of two very bright academics are interwoven throughout. Students Sebastian and Oskar are the very best of friends; it's almost as if they share the same heartbeat. However, as they grow into adulthood real life comes along and tends to get in the way. Sebastian settles for domestic bliss. Their friendship cools off, becomes a little tense and strained.

Zeh locates her novel in the region of The Black Forest and her descriptive writing gives the novel a sense of the area, of its clean, fresh air and pristine buildings. The town of Sophie-de-la-Roche-Strasse (a suitably exotic tongue-twister of a European name) is ... so leafy and green that it seems to have its own microclimate.

While the family man Sebastian appears to wear his education lightly, the ice-cool Oskar is a different beast entirely. According to Sebastian People like Oskar do not have silly nicknames. This sums up Oskar pretty well, I would say. If the well-known saying 'No man is an island' were put to Oskar I suspect he would immediately declare himself an island. He's brilliant and controversial. A heady mix. Some would say a lethal mix. During their regular suppers they invariably exchange news and opinions over such heavyweight subjects as physics, the relativity of time - oh, and perhaps about parallel universes over coffee. Put it this way, Stephen Hawkings would, I'm sure, feel right at home over the supper table.

These conversations are intense. Oskar is always right. Or believes himself to be. All of this may sound very academic, a bit full-on but Zeh has a deft touch. It's all entertaining stuff and I found it very interesting.

There's really only a handful of characters and Zeh has described them eloquently. Most could star in their own novel. For example, there's the statuesque and idiosyncratic Rita who I absolutely adored. Never a dull moment when she's around. Then there's the brainy Schilf who's also endearingly hopeless at dealing with everyday matters - like answering the phone, for instance. Dark humour appears throughout like quick flashes of lightning.

Early on in the novel a 'situation' occurs which has serious results for a number of people, including the two long-term friends. Every chapter is taut, suspenseful, almost Hitchcock-esque. Zeh's style is fluent but also elegantly sparse. You can almost hear the characters breathing; thinking through their next move. Their next roll of the dice. Will they be lucky?

Zeh brings up time and time again (no pun intended) the whole subject of time. Its passage. What it means to different people. We all know that time seems to fly when we're enjoying ourselves and drag when we're perhaps bored or depressed. She forces the reader to think about this and even beyond.

The other big theme of this novel is love in its many guises. And what a human being is capable of when love is part of the equation.

Original, descriptive sentences abound. They're like snowflakes on the printed page. For example, The ring of the telephone has the force of a stroke. and The air already smells of poorly lit pavements, hunched shoulders and damp hats.

The book jacket states this novel as an international bestseller. I can see why. This is an intriguing storyline with engrossing characters and the suspense towards the end is wonderful. I don't feel that I'm giving too much away when I repeat the mantra of Dark Matter that Everything that is possible happens. And does it? An absolute gem of a book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might enjoy The Return by Hakan Nesser.

Buy Dark Matter by Juli Zeh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dark Matter by Juli Zeh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Dark Matter by Juli Zeh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dark Matter by Juli Zeh at Amazon.com.


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