Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk

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Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This is the story of how one man copes with tragedy in his life. He doesn't - and retreats into the complex corners of his mind.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0330518840

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I was hooked instantly by the title. Original, thought-provoking, quirky. The book revolves around a youngish man who has been admitted to an insane asylum (these two words alone make me want to shiver) in modern-day Spain. The staff have their work cut out. He doesn't remember his name or anything at all about his past. He's sporadically violent - and he says he is Christopher Columbus! As the Americans would say, go figure.

One of the asylum nurses has been assigned to his case. She's expected mainly to listen to the patient in any lucid moments and to take written notes. Sounds simple enough. Columbus - or more specifically patient number 9214 - is interesting to the staff on various levels. No one has reported him missing. Why? No one comes to visit him. Why? He is clearly intelligent and educated, as bit by painful bit, he recounts his story to the nurse. He is also charming and attractive. His mood swings can be extreme and sudden. The professional, medical opinion is that he's retreated into his mind - he could be lost forever.

The striking, shifting relationship between nurse and patient, the keeper and the kept, if you like, is interesting and complex. The nurse ultimately looks inward at her own personal life, perhaps questions the choices that she's made so far.

A parallel thread in the book is that a French-based Interpol Officer just happens to be on the hunt for a missing man. He could be dangerous.

Although the novel is set in modern-day Spain, great chunks of narrative refer to the real 15th century Columbus and of his passion to discover new lands. It all makes for an intriguing juxtaposition. For example, one minute Columbus is asking his nurse if his ships have sailed and in the next breath he's saying in an irritable voice Get me a phone ... dammit .. I am Columbus. Christopher Columbus. Many of his rantings have tantalizing connections to his present life - if only they could be solved.

The ending is excellent. Unexpected. Original. Thought-provoking and contemporary. We can all relate to it.

Trofimuk's writing is elegant and eloquent. Immediately I 'felt' for this demented man. I could almost feel his frustration, his searing pain, throughout the book. It really is a universal story about the human spirit. About how we all cope - or don't cope with life's major ups and downs. For me, it's an uplifting book. You may find this a strange thing for me to say but you may very well agree after you have read this book It also almost brought me to tears in places.

The back cover suggests this book is similar to The Lovely Bones and The Time Traveler's Wife. I've read both books and, for me, Waiting For Columbus is my definite favourite. It's almost a haunting book.

A nice side-line is that many readers may be tempted, after reading this book, to find out more about the real Columbus. Not a bad link to history at all. Having said all that, I loved this book.

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

If this book appeals then you might also like Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann.

Buy Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk at Amazon.com.


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