16 Following


Currently reading

The Hollow Crown
Miri Rubin
Lara Elena Donnelly
Michael Ondaatje
Hystopia: A Novel
David Means

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel - Anthony Marra

I admired this book more than I loved it. Anthony Marra writes beautifully (although some passages seem a shade overdone) and many sections are very moving. Marra is also a great observer of details. In particular, I liked these moments from early in the book:


And now, in the morning, as he tightened the orange scarf around her neck, he found a fingerprint on the girl's cheek, and, because it could have been Dokka's, he left it.


After crossing herself, she lay back on the divan and squirted a cool puddle of hand lotion from the bottle she'd brought from London. Invariably she would apply too much, and her hands would be slick and shiny in the candlelight as she asked for another pair with which to share the excess.


On the other hand, though, the plot mechanics were a bit too neat and relied too heavily on coincidence; the characters' lives all fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Several revelations in the book fell flat for me because I was shaking my head at their implausibility.


A bigger problem is that none of the characters ever really feel like real people. In particular, Havaa does not sound remotely like any eight-year-old girl I've ever known; but really, none of the characters seems to have much personality. Given the epic sweep of the story, this isn't the fatal flaw it might be in another book; Marra isn't trying to write an intricate character study. But it made it hard for me to connect with the book the way I might have.


Still, there's a lot to like here, and I'm certainly glad I read it.