From Publishers Weekly
Skvorecky left his native Czechoslovakia in 1969 in the wake of the Soviet invasion and has been living in Canadian exile ever since. For the last 30 years, he has published copiously in Czech and has fared well in English translation (The Cowards; The Engineer of Human Souls; etc.). Now in his 70s, he has written his first book in English an intermittently eloquent if not entirely persuasive fiction, part murder mystery and part campus novel. The protagonist is an unnamed Skvorecky-like professor in Canadian exile, whose wife, Sidonia, a writer and editor, is being cruelly slandered in the Czech Republic by resentful postcommunist climbers. Meanwhile, life on the Toronto campus is disrupted by an unlikely murder. Two radically dissimilar worlds are here juxtaposed and interwoven: Central Europe, with its ferociously bitter animosities and treacheries left over from the Soviet era; and bland, tidy, middle-class Canada. The account of the relentless hounding of Sidonia and her bitter end is almost unbearably poignant, but the dull mystery story does not hold up its end of the bargain. In addition, Skvorecky has perhaps gotten carried away with the mimicry of spoken English. He has the non-native speaker's joyful enthusiasm for the little quirks that make English idiomatic, but the impression created by the text is not one of authentic talk so much as relentless chatter. Still, the novel is notable for its evocation of the professor's enduring love and respect for his brilliant, long-suffering wife. (May)Forecast: Skvorecky treads familiar ground in his latest novel, but it's being written in English may spark more reviews than usual. A charming photograph of the author and his wife in their youth on the jacket may attract browsers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
kvoreck", the well-known Czech writer who has lived in Canada for decades, relates in this "crime novel" the stories of two transgressions and their impact on those involved. Taking place in Toronto at Edenvale College, the investigation into the mysterious murder of a professor uncovers a jumble of suspicious alibis, romantic entanglements, and professional rivalries involving both students and faculty. At the same time, the narrator and his wife, Sidonia, both ?migr?s from the repressive Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, find out that she has been named as an informer according to state documents from the distant past. They travel to Prague in an attempt to clear her name, but accusations, news reports, and innuendoes weave a web of confusion and contradiction around the entire affair, and she becomes an innocent victim of her own supposed crime. Told with much humor in an informal, improvisational style, this short novel interweaves two stories in a narrative that is absorbing and enjoyable to read. The depth of feeling with which kvoreck" writes about the episode in Prague may suggest that some of the story is autobiographical; kvoreck" was, in fact, a professor at a college in Toronto and shares much in common with this narrator. This work treats some themes kvoreck" has worked with before (most recently in The Tenor Saxophonist's Story) and provides a good introduction to previous works by this internationally respected author. Recommended for all contemporary literature collections. Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. Lib. at Oneonta
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.