Author: Mark Patton
Publisher: Crooked Cat
Type of book:connecting lives, ancient history, 4000 PME, 1160s, 1517, 1799, 1944-1946, 2013, mystery, world war 2, religion, penance, Catholicism, temple, nature, meanings
Year it was published: 2014
SIX EPOCHS, TEN LIVES INTERSECTING AT A SINGLE PLACE. 2013: Al Cohen, an American in search of his European heritage.
1944-1946: Friedrich Werner, an officer of the Wehrmacht and later a prisoner of war. His wife Greta, clinging to what remains of her life in war-torn Berlin.
1799: Suzanne de Beaubigny, a royalist refugee from revolutionary France.
1517: Richard Mabon, a Catholic priest on pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his secretary, Nicholas Ahier.
1160: Raoul de Paisnel, a knight with a dark secret walking through Spain with his steward, Guillaume Bisson.
4000 BC: Egrasté, a sorceress, and Txeru, a man on an epic voyage.
Transgressions, reconciliations and people caught on the wrong side of history.
Omphalos. A journey through six thousand years of human history.
Its really hard to describe the characters, except that no matter how much time has passed, they felt somehow, well, the same. The reader briefly gets to know them before they are whisked away to another time and place to get to know others. I think the characters I liked were Raoul de Paisnel as well as Friedrich Werner. I liked Raoul de Paisnel because of the ways he is trying to atone for his sins, and Friedrich is a strange one; Friedrich is during WWII and fights for Germany, yet somehow he feels and seems human despite that.
Smallest things can connect past and present
With the exception of "The Spirit of the Times" and "The Infinite Labyrinth," all stories are in third person narrative from various points of views, and the reader gets treated to mystery, drama, comedy and romance within. The Spirit of the Times and The Infinite Labyrinth are written in first person narrative, one in a diary form and another in a letter form. There is a symmetry to reading the stories, and I like it much better than Cloud Atlas because each story feels way more personal than ones in Cloud Atlas.
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The intersecting lives really reminded me of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, although this was a much lighter read than Cloud Atlas, and the writing is very addictive and certainly keeps one interested in what happens next to the characters. The stories are not very conclusive, which can both be a good or a bad thing. But there is definitely a symmetry to reading it. What I also would have liked is understanding how the stories are linked to one another, sort of how in Cloud Atlas in second halves, the reader discovers the story within a story process so to speak. I can kind of see the links between the stories in terms of nature, religion and descendants/ancestors. Also a map for Etraste's world might have been helpful and it really is fun to speculate how the vignettes relate to one another.
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4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)