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Finishing Year: A 48-year-old single father takes a gap year to finish his university education as an international exchange student in Europe. Paperback – October 4, 2014
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About the Author
Born in 1964 in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Father of two kids. Remarried. Holds an honours degree (with distinction) in History in Art from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Teaches at the Co-operative State University of Baden-Wuerttemberg at Mannheim, Germany. A former journalist and author of four previous books on health, business, and travel. Writes personal experience adventure tales about living this life. Has a passion for Weimaraner dogs and possibly antique European sports cars and wooden sailboats.
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Where to begin? Finishing Year by Bryce Finley was such a joy to read, from start to finish. His mastery of prose and his way to make a book read like a spoken story are astounding skills you may not find in many other books. He peppers in such witty remarks throughout his story, such as complaints about the Hausmeister who does anything but his job and the Myth of German Efficiency. But these specific examples are not the only ways he makes the story worth reading; his spoken-word like approach to story telling makes it feel like you are sitting right next to the author as he is telling the story to you personally. His descriptions of the places he visited while in Europe are excellent. As a person who has been to many of the same places he visited, I must admit that he expertly relays the feelings of those places. Perhaps to a reader without such experience it won't have as much of an impact, but his descriptions of people and places in the book made me smile on more than one occasion as so many very distinct memories were brought back to the forefront of my mind. All of this could not have been possible if not for the wonderful way in which Finley brought these places to life through his words.
I have to admit, art and art history never really interested me very much. Yes of course I can appreciate a good painting and its history, but I never really wanted to make special trips to museums just to see obscure paintings only students of art would be able to recognize. The astounding way Finley described the paintings he saw while in Europe was a huge surprise to me. It was not a surprise to me that he was able to accomplish such levels of description, but it was astonishing to me how an author could in fact describe them at all. I have never thought much about how to relay a picture through words, but Finley obviously has found a beautiful way in this book. He has an ability to bring both places and things to life through words and that is something I have not personally found in many books.
I have only one complaint about this book: I wish it were longer. If it were 200 pages longer I would have no complaints at all. Finishing Year is a book you simply do not want to put down. That is a testament to Finley's ability to write such gripping descriptions of places and things. I know there was so much more for him to write about during his stay in Europe, and perhaps he only wanted to write the amount that was published, but I know I would not argue if he decided to add more to his already wonderful tale.
I do not normally get very sad at the end of books, but I found myself in this exact state of being when I finished this book only a short while ago. I felt like I really got to know the author while reading his work, and even though he is alive and well in Germany or Canada, I feel like my connection with him has been severed, at least in the intimate capacity a personal travel memoir can provide.
I will end this review by saying that I am very glad that I got the chance to read this book. It opened my eyes to things I had never thought of, and it provided me with a new set of eyes through which to see places in Europe that my own eyes have already seen. If you only read one travel book in your life, it should be this one. Without a doubt in my mind, this is one of the finest pieces of literature that I have read. (You may argue my experience in literature all you want, but to me and my own experience this holds true, which is what ultimately matters here since it is my review after all!) I hope that this book receives the recognition it deserves and I hope that if you are reading this review that you give this book a chance. I assure you, you will be better off for reading it.