Having picked up the book for an upcoming book club but most of all having been curious about it because of Olga Tokarczuk having received the Nobel Prize for Literature, I’ve got to say that I was underwhelmed to say the least. Personally, getting through this book was a pain… I didn’t feel motivated to continue reading it, struggled through it for almost a month, my interest wasn’t sparked by it, it just wasn’t my thing. What I do have to say is that the book should be labelled as a collection of short stories. I’ve realised that I’m not a fan of these at all, so I would’ve preferred to be warned about it. Some hints about it could be read out through the reviews, I nevertheless decided to give the book a try & had to learn it the hard way.
There is huge potential to this book though & other readers who are not as against short stories as I am might find something enjoyable within it. There is a red line that ties the individual stories together, which consists of two parallels: movement, motion & travels, on the contrary to stillness & getting stuck in one place. Nevertheless. there are some “stories” that are as short as 4-5 sentences. These, in my opinion, didn’t fit into the rhythm, often seemed out of place or awkward. Yes, it’s a style & it’s the specific choice of the writer to put them there that way, but I simply wasn’t a fan of them. They made the reading flow seem messy.
I did have some favourite stories that have crystallised themselves out like, “Kunicki”, the story of a married couple & the woman disappearing with the child; “Flights”, about a family where the mother takes care of a sick child at home; “Godzone”, long time lovers reaching out of nowhere for the most unexpected reasons; or “Kairos”, a professor on the topic of Greek culture being the protagonist, along with his younger wife, forming a complex relationship. Those were four of the longest stories within the entire book, which shows clearer what kind of type of reading I rather prefer. With two of them, I still felt disappointed that they somehow were suffocated and that not enough space was given to them to develop. Most of all, I’m also not a fan of open endings, which is how they ended. Besides those, I was always thrilled when some more details about preserved specimens popped up (animal & human bodies, organs, etc.), which was a recurring topic. It was apparent, that it was a well researched topic, with a lot of historical & technical details provided.
What can’t be denied is the observational talent of the author & the capability to construct such intricately bound stories. I’d be curious in reading some other books of hers to discover more of her style in a full scale novel & I was rather recommended the book “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” during the group discussion of “Flights”.
All in all, I can’t say that my reading experience was even average, that’s why I’d only give a rating of 2/5 stars. Nevertheless it is an invitation to discover Olga Tokarczuk & her writing style through some of her other novels.