Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BOOK: Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, 294 pages

Orange Prize Winner; 1% well read

Very poetic, beautiful language, I enjoyed reading it even if I didn't necessarily know what was going on. It's not really a good sign if you have to check wikipedia or sparknotes after finishing a book to find out what exactly happened. I guess the main idea is about survivors and the guilt they live with. I liked the first section in the story of Jakob but was completely bewildered in the second section. Who was the narrator now?

The orphaned Jakob is taken in by Athos, a paleonbiologist, providing metaphors about unearthing things and looking below layers, and the fact that there can be a whole world buried beneath us that we can't see. They arrive in Canada from Greece each with a past they are trying to deal with.

I couldn't turn my anguish from the precise moment of death. I was focused on that historical split second: the tableau of the haunting trinity - perpetrator, victim, witness.
But at what moment does wood become stone, peat become coal, limestone become marble? The gradual instant.

I wasn't expecting a book about world war two, and I didn't realize that the Germans were in Greece too. Their reach was far and the after effects many, sometimes lasting generations.

But each time a memory or story slinks away, it takes more of me with it.

I'm not a fan of books told in metaphors, but this book is highly honored - Orange Prize Winner of 1997, so for the more literate of you, I recommend. And to be clear, I enjoyed reading the words, even if I didn't really understand the story, and I saw all the references as they floated over my head, I just didn't catch them. And yet, it was compelling and beautiful.

Here's the back cover testimonial:
Sensual, vivid, utterly spellbinding, Fugitive Pieces is a novel about loss, the process of memory, and the redemptive powers of love, which resonates long after the final page.


  1. Loved your review and as I don't feel very literate myself thanks for reading it for me!! LOL!! I have stayed away from books that are told with a heavy use of metaphors because it all just goes right over my head!!

  2. staci - sometimes I feel like I'm close to getting the idea in literate books, but this one I didn't get close enough.

  3. I agree with you on this one. I loved reading the individual paragraphs, but sometimes I didn't have a clue what was going on!

    This is a book which needs to be re-read several times to fully appreiciate it (something I'm not going to do!)

  4. I seem to remember this (or parts of it) being read on the CBC many years ago. I have a quote in my quotes folder from it:

    Hold a book in your hand and you're a pilgrim at the gates of a new city.
    Anne Michaels,
    citing a Hebrew saying in Fugitive Pieces

    Don't think I'll read it - I just mentioned something on my blog about troubles with metaphors. :<)

  5. I loved this book so much, I don't remember being confused by it though I'm struggling to remember all of the ending, and just getting fragments - doesn't a son or someone return to the scene of his childhood?

  6. I hated this book... It just did not do anything for me! I always feel weird saying that because, well, it is considered one of the best Canadian books ever... but, it was not for me!

  7. Yikes. I hope I like this one better than you did! I got a copy on the recommendation of Simon Van Booy, when I interviewed him. He said he loves Anne Michaels' books so much that he'd give her a kidney if she needed one. And, then he paused and said, "Not that I don't value my kidneys . . . "

  8. farmlanebooks - I'm glad you understand what I meant. I also am not planning to read it again!

    nan - there were many great quotes and the writing was beautiful.

    katrina - I can be a little dense sometimes, and I know that many people love the book. Really loved it, and I can see why a person could. I never got in the groove of the story maybe. It ended up being an admirer of Jakob that returned to his Greece homeland.

    I know I loved The Bone People and I could see how someone wouldn't like it, but it resonated with me when I read it. I'm glad you commented that you liked it so others can see that it is recommended.

    kailana - yeah, it's hard to say you don't like a book that is beloved, it's like being unCanadian.

    bookfool - Lots of people really liked it! Don't listen to me. And I did like the writing and it never bored me. (except some of the archeology/biology)

  9. Great review! I liked the book too but I loved the movie. Have you seen it?


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