Monday, December 10, 2007

bonnie burstow and the house on lippincott*

i'm in the middle of this book and it's amazing. a pair of holocaust survivors are living in toronto and have three daughters. the daughters grow up in a house haunted by pain and memories of the unspeakable. they each end up as different as three women can be. that sounds so trite. i'm not even near the end of the book yet, but i can say that this book is deeply satisfying because it is a well-told story, it is emotionally impacting thanks to the premise and the writing, and it is philosophically challenging.
the book doesn't gloss over any of the pain, yet none of it is glorified or dragged out. pain is simply a daily fact for the book's denizens, much like hunger and cold. it divides the family and, paradoxically, holds them together. it forms the characters as they strive to overcome it, wallow in it, deny it... pain is as air to the family in the book. amazingly, the book isn't depressing. it's deeply thought-provoking, though. several issues (pedophilia, homosexuality, guilt, racism, etc) are treated with the gravity they deserve but without bogging the story down. the writer is unafraid of being intellectual. most novels don't have footnotes, but this isn't most novels. the writer assumes a certain amount of literacy on the reader's part in regards to philosophy and history, which i don't mind at all, but others might.
this book really isn't for everybody, but for the right people it's staggeringly good.

*this review was written while nursing, bouncing and burping a heavy, fat baby to sleep and so the syntax is choppy and the thoughts don't flow. consider it to be a draft. come back in a week or two to read the final version

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