Monday, October 15, 2007

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

This is one complex novel – but don’t let that stop you! Pamuk has told an intricate tale with lots of interesting characters. The mystery narrator of the novel, reveals himself at the end, and that is a surprise. The story is absorbing, and while the history, politics, and names of Turkey are a little confusing, enough background is provided for the reader to follow nearly all the twists and turns.
I can understand why Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006. I always try and read the latest winner. I have discovered many great writers this way—Saramago, Kurtesz, Achebe, and a few others. Coincidentally, the 2007 winner, Doris Lessing, was announced last week. I have read quite a few of her books, but some important ones are on my TBR shelf.
At first, I thought I might not get through Snow, but something kept pulling me along. I began to build up speed, and, about a third of the way through, I was captivated. I could barely put it down over the last 150 pages. I also thought, early on, that this would be my only foray into Pamuk, but one of the descriptions of another of his novels intrigued me enough to order a copy. I probably won’t read it soon, but I will get to it.
I did notice a couple of minor problems that may be entirely in my head. I felt left out of some of the conversations, because I did not understand comments some of the characters made as well as some of the reactions of those characters. Perhaps there is a piece of the cultural puzzle missing that would help me better appreciate what was going on. Are Turkish men REALLY that chauvinistic? Neither was I clear that the issue of the head scarves for women was ironic or a serious issue. I also could not tell whether the main character, (Ka, an exiled poet who has returned to his home village with three pretexts), was serious or manipulative when talking to students, the police, his friends, or the newspaper editor. Four and ½ stars out of five.
--Chiron, 10/14/07

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