Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: The Boat by Nam Le

Reviewed by Lucia

Published: 2008

It's about: This is a collection of several short stories by Vietnamese author Le, who later migrated to Australia. The settings of the stories however, trek across multitude of countries and cities, and are, at times, seemingly autobiographical. Spanning several decades, Le dabbles in a variety of times, cultures, and emotions.

I thought: This book is beautiful. Not necessarily that I found the characters
likable or the story enjoyable, but Nam Le's language is unparalleled. I enjoyed the book most as a whole, when I allowed myself to simply appreciate the story for the language and the emotions of the characters.

Le's style is captivating. The way in which the author manipulates the prose to build landscapes and create emotions is very unique, and I enjoyed the novel relying solely on these elements. At times Le's bluntness is startling but fresh. I find that I have read many short stories whose author's build them up singularly on the evocation of the character's emotion, which can become monotonous. Yet Le's sharp truths come precisely when required.

One of my favorite stories was Waiting For Elise, about an ill and aging
painter, mourning the loss of his lover and the daughter he doesn't know. The
structure Le has pieced together such that the reader discovers the narrating
character's past slowly but not lethargically. Somehow, impossibly, the voice
of the story is unbiased towards the situation of the narrating character. I
believe that this reflects the title of the story, in that the central character is waiting as opposed to actually doing, and he knows this. I think the reader can sympathise with this because at the heart of the story is a commonly felt fear.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Nam Le's website is quite interesting.

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts: Just read the book, its worth it.

What I'm reading next: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.