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Songs from the Other Side of the Wall Kindle Edition

6 customer reviews

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Length: 218 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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The One I Was by Eliza Graham
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Asa C. Page on September 27, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I don't have the time to spend whiling away reading books I don't like. I was, until I finished Songs From the Other Side of The Wall, fairly sure I'd never give anything less than a three star rating because I was fairly sure I wouldn't finish anything with a rating lower than that. And then I finished it. I'll keep it at three stars, because it's very well written, but I've got some serious concerns about this as a story.

Let me start with the good things: Holloway can really write. He's handy with his words. The book is detail and image rich, and they are in the service of the plot, rather than the other way around. He's done a remarkably good job of creating a teen-age lesbian, which since he's a middle aged man, I'm fairly certain that's something he's never been. Sandrine is, for a teen girl, engaging, and for a coming of age story, has some stuff to actually be angsty about. This is not just whining for the sake of whining. I tend to think part of the reason coming of age stories are so frequently Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Historical is because those conventions make it easy to manufacture crucibles in which to create adults. This very real world, very now, set book did a good job of creating a situation to push Sandrine out of childhood towards adulthood, which is hard to do without falling into the whine whine whine of traditional adolescent angst.

The book is simultaneously very European, while being very true to the humanity of anyone who reads it. What I know about Hungary, the cutting edge of radical art/politics, music, and wine can pretty much fill a good sized thimble. Yet the book is well enough written to deal with all of these things without leaving me behind.

The bad: The plot twist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Everington on April 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a hard book to review, for a simple summary of the plot doesn't really do it justice; this is a book where mood and tone of voice are more important. (That's not to say there isn't a plot - there is, and it's a good one.) There's some obvious influences like Murakami and Coupland, but for me the key comparison was Salinger, in the way the author turns a teenager's enthusiasms, slang and naivety into something hard-edged yet lyrical. It's a testament to the skill of the author that the words always seem like they belong to the hugely likeable heroine, a teenage lesbian sculptor, even though from the author photo Dan Holloway is none of these things...

There are some flaws - brief off-notes where the dialogue is a shade to pretentious or whimsical to be true - but such is the compelling nature of the main character's voice you're easily carried over these small blips. I guess the main test of a book is whether after finishing it you would read more by the same author - and on this evidence that's a resounding yes from me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marion Stein on March 1, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a book truly made for the digital age -- hip, sensuous, smart and up to date.* Holloway is the founder of the Year 0 collective and initially made the book free to grow readership. It developed a devoted following and got quite a bit of buzz, but now it's on Kindle and sales are really taking off.

Szandrine was born in Hungary shortly after the Berlin Wall fell. Abandoned by her British mother, she was raised by her father on a family-owned vineyard. Szandrine is part of the Budapest art scene and lives with her girlfriend, Yang -- a sculptor.

Set in 2006-2007, besides it's exotic setting, what sets this novel apart is the invention of a truly contemporary character. Szandrine, at seventeen, is post-Wall Europe, at ease with the non-issue of her sexuality, and more at home in certain corners of the Internet than anywhere else.

New Year's Eve 2006, Szandi witnesses a tragedy during riots in Budapest. What she sees impels her to explore her past and brings her to an understanding of her future. The story unfolds in real time, flashbacks, letters and in chat-rooms.

It's a complicated tale involving the recall of an online friendship with a dead man, a mysterious letter, and an unsatisfactory reunion mother-child reunion. Holloway, never loses control and the strands are woven together with the connections becoming clear. As Szandrine explores her recent and more distant history, she comes into her own with knowledge and wisdom.

With flashbacks, and switches in time and location, this may not be the easiest narrative to follow, but it captures the rhythms and nuisance of how we live now in a way that has rarely been done better and never loses sight of its characters and their need to connect.

(*Up to date for 2006-7 when it's set. Things have changed since and one wonders if Szandi would just be tweeting and texting these days.)
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