Friday, May 09, 2008

#32 - The Woman Who Waited

While I have to say that while much Andrei Makine's IMPAC-shortlisted novel, The Woman Who Waited, exists somewhere between lyricism and imagination, much of the book suffers from slightly muddled storytelling. There's also a quirk in his writing that slightly befuddled me: how sentences and dialogue simply trail off with an ellipsis... and then start up with a completely different thought. Maybe it's an attempt for the author to force the story off the page? Maybe it's a way for Makine to foreshadow the ambiguous nature of his main character, a Leningrad scholar to goes to a remote northern village and ends up falling in love with an equally ambiguous woman.

Who knows.

Annnnywaaay. There's are fairy tale elements to the book that I quite enjoyed. Lots of deep, mysterious woods. Plenty of aging old crone-like women. Many figures appearing out of the mist. Goodly amounts of atmospheric hoarfrosty weather. The story goes like this: boy comes of age in an urban environment in Leningrad that's slightly unsatisfying. Listless encounters with the opposite sex lead to drunken fumbling behind the curtain (literally and metaphorically) and our hero sets off to the north on an anthropological mission. He's going to record and study the rituals of the women of Mirnoe, a tiny village obliterated by the Second World War, now populated almost entirely by diminishing families and widows. Among the elderly women lives a 46-year-old woman named Vera who has waited since she was 16 for her soldier to come home to her. He never arrived.

Our narrator becomes fascinated, even obsessed, with Vera, and a strange relationship burgeons between the two. He's intrigued by her story and this drives him to follow her into the woods, to the railway station, into her house. But he's young, foolish, and selfish, and as the novel progresses it becomes obvious that he's incapable of telling her story, as much as he wants to. Ultimately, I think the book, more a novella than a full novel, is worth being read. The setting (which fulfills my Russia component for Around the World in 52 Books) is mysterious, enigmatic and ultimately the most interesting aspect of the novel. It's a lovely little fable, and while so far it hasn't blown me away like Rawi Hage's DeNiro's Game, it was certainly worth the read.

READING CHALLENGES: As well as being Russia (see above), the novel the 3rd title from the IMPAC shortlist I've read so far.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: I indulged in a little something special for myself starting this morning: Paul Quarrington's The Ravine. I'm already over 50 pages in. Then I need to start kicking ass in terms of The Canadian Book Challenge, as I've got two months left to read 4 different provinces. Gack!

5 comments:

Quinn said...

I just finished it at lunchtime. I enjoyed it. I thought passages were beautiful and I agree, the setting was evocative but the trailing off at times was jarring.

At the halfway point , De Niro's Game is my pick for the prize.

ragdoll said...

I would agree.

Quinn said...

Hey! Impac announces tomorrow. I got through 6 of the books - couldn't get my hands on sweet and simple kind and didn't find the time to read the gail jones book. I vote for De Niro's game.

ragdoll said...

You did much better than I did -- managing to get through 3, I think. I will keep plugging though. I vote for DeNiro's Game too.

Quinn said...

Yay! He won

http://www.rte.ie/arts/2008/0612/impac.html

This is well deserved , I thought it was a beautifully written novel. I'm thrilled for him and for Canadian , Lebanese and International writing.