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The Facades: A Novel Paperback – June 3, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
Rating: Three-star (It’s ok)
There’s a moment in the book when our protagonist, Sven, is reading the memoir of the city of Trude’s most influential architect, the crazy but brilliant Klaus Bernhard. Bernhard calls his lost love, Ulli, “’the missing heart’ of his architecture.” As irony would have it, The Facades seems to suffer a similar loss.
In a book as stylish and hipsterific as this one, I can’t say I'm surprised that it's “missing heart.” Whenever a book has an obvious preoccupation, like aesthetics, other elements of storytelling seem to fall to the wayside. Ultimately, I wish the main characters and the plot did the setting justice. Sven (yes, we’re getting the inner thoughts of a person actually named Sven, living in ’Murrica) is a stereotypical suburban wet blanket, and his son Kyle is aloof and friendless. Sven is a self described paranoiac who goes out each night to search for his missing wife, Molly. Kyle, with little fanfare, becomes devoutly religious and subsequently is a mere ghostly presence in most of the book. Neither character is markedly intriguing. Molly seems like she has more of a story to tell, but it's Sven' s voice we get, a dry, mechanical kind of narration that lacks intimacy and emotional grit.
Trude is the real character in The Facades. Eric Lundgren seems to hit his stride when describing the city's history and the perpetually disgruntled architect who contributed to its infamous design. Take for instance Trude’s mall: Built as a spiral with a seemingly unsolvable, mysterious labyrinth of tall hedges at its center...Read more ›
It cannot be denied that Lundgren's imagination and considerable writing skills paint a vivid and telling city that is odd, chilling, pathetic, and even humorous. The offbeat setting and characters are reminiscent of Vonnegut: madness in a strange world.
My main criticism is that Lundgren, who may have opened too many threads in the story, leaves some unresolved. There are parts in which I feel the story is sacrificed or put on hold for these indulgences. Also, it is sometimes too difficult to follow his extensive vocabulary, obscure cultural references, and even his occasionally lofty prose. Lundgren is clearly an educated mind, but his style and narrative tend to get ahead of themselves.
Still, there was the great satisfaction that the central plot is given resolve, as well as another lingering mystery (I feared they would be murky) in this textured page-turner. In many ways it was a pleasure to read. The Facades is about a man who finds himself haunted and discovers that he is not alone. For the most part, Lundgren handles his tale well as he layers and expresses it with a fresh voice.
The novel at first seems to have a dystopian setting, but one ultimately gets the sense that it takes place very much in the here and now. Trude could be any one of a number of cities --- Detroit comes to mind, as does Cleveland, or perhaps author Eric Lundgren's own St. Louis, where he is employed as a librarian --- or all of them actually. The piece is narrated by a tragic figure named Sven Norberg, who is under-employed at a law firm under the thumb of an implicitly unlikable senior partner, who is a rogue, a letch, and probably incompetent. Norberg is marking the fourth month since his wife's disappearance. Molly, the missing wife, is Trude's preeminent opera singer, a professional who dreamed of greater things and larger venues but who ultimately has been forced to settle for being a big fish in a small and somewhat stagnant pond.
Norberg tells the story of their courtship and relationship out of sequence, a method that works well here, given the disjointed environment where the story takes place. The effect is to render THE FACADES not so much a novel as an interconnected group of short stories that seem (and I stress seem) to leave the reader free to skip around a bit. Don't. Lundgren pulls off a very difficult trick here, revealing more in the implications of what he relates than in the actual telling.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As we come to know the protagonist Sven Norberg, we also come to know his city, Trude and by the novel's end we understand how the man and city are inextricably linked. Read morePublished on November 21, 2013 by megler
"The Facades" is a waste of time. The book jacket says it's "a comic and existential mystery that unfolds at the urgent pace of a thriller," magnificently telescoping five lies... Read morePublished on September 22, 2013 by Patrican