Sunday, October 18, 2009

all that were left of mercy

I started this book in June and finished it this afternoon. This is one of those books that would catch my eye continually at work and when a friend recommended it to me I got my hands on a copy from another friend, who seems to have every book I want to read but haven't bought yet.

I'm not going to lie to you, this book was difficult at times. Bolano often goes for pages without a line break and chapters are hundreds of pages long. Character names tripped me up a lot. And I'm still not sure if I got the book. But the writing is beautiful. We get pieces of personal histories from almost every character we meet and all of them are written in a way that you care about what the man with glasses who saves Hans from drowning thought about human nature. No character seems to be a throw-away.

This book is broken up into five parts: The Part About the Critics, The Part About Amalfitano, The Part About Fate, The Part About the Crimes, and The Part About Archimboldi. The parts are all connected with the town of Saint Theresa in Mexico, where hundreds of women are being murdered.

I really enjoyed the Part about the Critics because I felt that I could really connect to the character of Liz Norton. She is described best as not being "what one would ordinarily call a woman of great drive, which is to say that she didn't draw up long-term or medium-term plans and throw herself wholeheartedly into their execution. She had none of the attributes of the ambitious" (page 8). She and three other scholars all are experts on Benno von Archimboldi, a German novelist.

The Part About Amalfitano wasn't quite as good as the first part. I think I tried too hard to connect what was going on between the different parts and was a little annoyed that the connections seemed so tenuous. This section was still wonderfully written though.

The Part About Fate focuses on a reporter, last name Fate, who comes to Saint Theresa to cover a boxing match but ends up trying to write a piece on the murders. He also becomes tangled in the fate of Amalfitano's daughter.

The Part About the Crimes really dragged me down. This is also the longest section of the book and it chronicles the murders that have occur ed in and around Saint Theresa. We get a history on most of the girls and the police that are trying to solve the crimes. The end of this section really picked up for me, but I'm still unsure if I got the point of most of this section.

The Part About Archimboldi was my favorite. Here we learn about the mysterious author Benno von Archimboldi and are taken to Poland, Germany and Russia during World War II. I wish that this had been the longest section. I had no idea how everything was going to come together, and really there are a lot of things left open, but the last hundred pages just does it's job.

It took me a long time to read this book. Mostly because during parts three and four I would set it down and wasn't excited about reading it. Now that I finished I wish I had read the whole thing in a shorter time span, that way I would be able to view this as a whole work more. I read part five in something like two days and as I reached the end I found myself reading slower and slower. I didn't want it to end.

All of the quotes that I loved tended to be huge paragraphs and chunks of text that would be too much to take out and place here.

I would be really interested to read another book from Roberto Bolano, especially since this book wasn't technically finished when he died.

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