'My mother knew a man during the war. Theirs was a love story, and like any good love story, it left blood on the floor and wreckage in its wake'.
As a boy growing up in New York, his parents' memories of their Czech homeland seem to belong to another world, as distant and unreal as the fairy tales his father tells him.
It is only as an adult, when he makes his own journey to Prague, that he is finally able to piece together the truth of his parents' past: what they did, who his mother loved, and why they were never able to forget.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Granta Books
- Publication Date: 01/01/2008
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781846270864
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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by Tinwara
This book is like an art gallery. Reading this book made me feel as if I walked along a series of paintings, each picturing a situation, a time frame, a person, a small recollection or memory. All together these pictures make two stories. There is the "real" story, which consists of memories of the youth of the narrator, son of Czech immigrants in the US, focussing especially on his mother, and of his young adult years, when he has migrated to Czechoslovakia and tries to find clues to his mother's story. And there is the fictional story, his mother's story as it could have been. When there is no factual clue to what has long passed and has been buried in silence, only reasoned fantasy and fiction can give meaning to the past, is what the narrator tries to say. A beautiful idea, I think.I loved the descriptions, the little pictures that Slouka draws in each chapter. I appreciated the melancholia of the first and second part of the book, that describe the unsuccessful attempts of the narrator to understand his parents and their history. However, I had troubles getting through the third part of the book, the fictional part about the love story between the mother and a war hero. The distant sketchy style seemed to work for the parts where distance is described, but not for the love story. At not a single moment did I feel this love, did I understand what was the attraction between the two lovers, besides something vaguely physical. The story of Prague in the second world war is interesting enough, and the moral dilemma's described are thought provoking. This made it worth reading on, but I missed the feeling for the characters.
Review by dudara
I found The Visible World to be an entracing and tragic tale of lost love, war and its aftermath. The tale is told as a partly truthful tale by our narrator who is the child of immigrant parents in the United States. His parents left Czechoslovakia following World War II, eventually settling in the states.The author grows up in a loving household but is aware of some sadness and mystery that permeates his parents life. His mother is melancholic and his father is accepting and protective. Eventually the grown up narrator travels to his parents native land to attempt to understand the past.The second half of the book really shines as the author describes events surrounding the 1942 assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich and a tragic love story concerning his own mother. The love story is deeply touching and remains engraved in your head and heart long after you finish the book. The prose is elegant, and despite the slow first half, there is something wonderful and worthwhile about this book.
Review by sunnycouger
I can see what the author was trying to do with this book, and perhaps if I had read it at a different time, or was in a different mood, or re-read it again, I would get it more than I did on this reading. The book is split into three parts (as a child, as a man, a novelisation), with the author telling the story of his mother and her great love affair with a man who wasn't his father, and how that caused her all the issues he was aware of while growing up. <br/><br/>The first part of the book just takes too long to engage you, the second part is brief and the third part (the novel) is good, but I just didn't feel a lot of affection or a connection with the characters so the emotional conclusion just didn't affect me as much as it seemed to affect some people. I just didn't really care enough to be bothered. The third part of the book does effectively fill in the blanks of earlier in the book, but I just wonder if the story would have benefited from a less unorthodox style of telling the story.<br/><br/>It's well written (although a little flowery in places) and, as I said, I can see what he was trying to do, but for me he just didn't pull it off successfully.