By Anne Michaels
Completed July 14, 2009
I have never been so bewitched and confused by a novel as I was reading Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. Michaels poetically told the story of Jakob Beer, a poet himself, who survived the Holocaust after being rescued by a Greek geologist. The first part of Fugitive Pieces depicted Jakob’s life as a young man, living in Greece and Canada. The second half of the book was the narrative of Ben, an admirer of Jakob’s poetry, whose personal life was spiraling out of control.
Jakob and Ben share many parallels – both were affected by the Holocaust, survivors’ guilt and a strangling inability to show their love. For me, Jakob’s story was more fascinating. His nightmarish grip on dealing with his sister’s death was haunting. His love for Athos, his surrogate father, and his second wife, Michaela, showed hope. And his recollections of World War II were heart-breaking. All in all, his tale was more humanizing.
To find these story lines, though, the reader must wade through Michaels’ prose. To say it was beautifully written would be an understatement. However, there were times when I read a paragraph and scratched my head, wondering why it was part of the book. The meandering prose was distracting only because I could not fit it into the larger storyline. Perhaps Fugitive Pieces is a book best read twice.
With that said, I can’t say I regret reading Fugitive Pieces, but it’s definitely not a book for everyone. I usually recommend a book based on other titles or genres, but I can’t for Fugitive Pieces. It stands alone as a beautiful but tangled book about love, loss and the power of the human spirit.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (Jill's review)