Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Man Walks Into A Room by Nicole Krauss

I really wanted this to be a five-star review, and if I had stopped around page 75, it would have been. Krauss is a fantastic writer, and there are passages of achingly beautiful prose that highlight the potential that is never realized in this, her first novel. But Man Walks Into A Room is too scattered and wanders off on too many tangents. The book begins with a memory seemingly unrelated to any of the characters we meet for those first 75 pages, and this was annoying, but I was sucked into the gentle exploration of Samson, who is found wandering in the desert, all memories since the age of 12 obliterated by a tumor. He does not recognize his wife, Anna, and Krauss explores her reaction to Samson's condition in a peripheral kind of way. The story up to this point is fascinating and beautifully written. Then Krauss veers off onto a science-fictiony tangent that the framework just can't support. I tolerated this for a while, but by 125 or so pages, I was irritated and cranky and wanting the story to be over, but the opening had been so promising that I felt compelled to keep reading to see if she redeemed herself. Nope. After the science fictiony bit is finally blissfully over, we go into this other part in which Samson connects with a teenager and then his senile uncle in sort of obvious, yet obscure, ways. And the ending just fizzled out. This could have been a really amazing book, but Krauss was too ambitious in her scope and the story suffered for it. Ultimately, I don't recommend this book, but I do want to read her second novel, The History of Love, in the hopes that she reaches her potential there.

Edited to add: I have current books from ToB to read, but I started this while waiting for them to arrive. I think I felt spurred to clear some of my literary backlog by the imminent arrival of new books :) I'm reading these interspersed with my Jane Jeffry mysteries.

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