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Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto Paperback – International Edition, August 1, 2011
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
A novelist in search of an appropriate setting for a bleak novel in the 19th-century tradition, where tuberculosis kills thousands and women are routinely deprived their societal voice, would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting venue than the Finnish convalescence ward where Chapman has set her anxious debut. Ex-dancer Julia is a reluctant tenant of the Suvanto Sairaala, attended to by an American nurse named Sunny Taylor with whom she shares an uneasy connection. The two women weather a succession of historical set pieces involving the consequences of imperfectly understood obstetrics, Finland's changing relationship with Russia, and madness. If the patients and doctors like Pearl Weber; her surgeon husband, the stitch-happy Peter; and the defiant Mary Minder are a microcosm for Chapman, they're little more than guinea pigs for Peter's increasingly sinister experiments. The haunted atmosphere, though, is routinely undercut by injections of elementary Finnish, periods of moody dead air, and an unnecessarily extended dénouement. It's much tamer than the gothics it emulates, but its proto-feminist subtext and Ingmar Bergman aura are brilliantly communicated, making for a promising, if not always satisfying, first novel. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It’s hard to imagine a bleaker place than Suvanto, the Finnish convalescent hospital that serves as backdrop for Chapman’s unsettling debut. As the novel opens, a troubled—and troublesome—older woman named Julia Dey has been admitted to the facility. A former dancer and dance instructor, Dey suffers maladies both mental and physical; her anger and brittle banter upset both patients and staff. (Nurse Sunny Taylor is charged with her care, an assignment that rattles the American who had come to Suvanto with the hopes of escaping her unhappy life.) Physical problems require Julia to wear a pessary, a circumstance that only worsens her cantankerous state. Though she manages to forge some alliances (albeit uneasy) with other patients, Julia remains an outsider right up until the novel’s end, when she undergoes an operation with tragic results. Short story writer Chapman renders a dark, disturbing scenario, but the plot suffers from a sluggish start. The novel gains momentum toward the end, but by then many readers may have lost interest. --Allison Block --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A lot of reviews I've read mention the book's genre shift at the very end (last fifty pages or so) feels hackneyed or out of place, but I don't think those reviewers were paying attention. With the ending in mind, the novel becomes a slow discourse on the dissolution of identity. You're given hints of backstory early on that will "explain" the characters, and while you get some more it's never enough to satisfy if that's what you're looking for. No, the real beauty of the novel comes from its relentless description of (and narrative adherence to) routine. Routine buries other concerns, routine is what the characters at Suvanto are looking for. In a way, it's almost relaxing. Until it isn't, when certain events occur, and the genre shift happens. At that point, you're stuck. Your mind is so hazy from the routine, is that blood in your relaxing book? The use of a Greek chorus structure for the narration really helps this. Early on you can find yourself asking who the "we" in the narration is, but this question will slip away for a while until you notice its terrifying return.
One felt that Pearls HUSBAND tried but got a raw deal overall
Who did it? Was the threat of changes in their abnormal _normal closed society partly responsible for some actions?
You be the judge after reading.
Most recent customer reviews
I was thoroughly depressed half way through and as I always finish books, it was a great...Read more