Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Wow, usually I'm johnny-on-the-spot with the book group recaps but not this month. Please forgive the posting if it seems vague and too high level.

So, we finally met on the correct night, after some good natured ribbing about calendars and personal updates we got to it.

Snow, by Orhan Pamuk is the tale of an exiled poet who returns to Kars, his home town in Turkey to cover an uncomfortable story that the locals and government would prefer remain untold. During his journey an epic snow storm isolates the town and a "military" coup takes place. Ka, the poet is an observer, but manages to get very involved in all the activities and (we thought) recklessly influences events without much thought to the consequences.

Ka is overcome with the return of his gift for poetry during his time in Kars and Orhan taunts us with conceptual descriptions of poem after poem. While not a huge fan of reading the poetry of others, the lack of any Ka's poetry in Snow is a disappointment that I'm sure is intended.

While the book resulted in a lively discussion we had some complaints. In spite of the fact that the book jacket touts a rave review from John Updike (The New Yorker) that states the book has "suspense at every dimpled vortex..." we were less than thrilled with Orhans style and how he managed to kill the suspense the moment it started to build. He builds a moment where the reader is anxious to read how the events will unfold, but before the story lead us to the answer, Orhan uses the narrator to give it away.

As a fictional example, a character injured in an accident and the doctor will be in to tell him the prognosis. Will he ever walk again? Will he be able to walk down the isle to marry his one true love? Suspense, suspense.... this is where Orhan would drop a line like "Ka, in extraordinary pain, waited anxiously to learn if he would ever walk again. He never would." COME ON MAN, give us a few moments to agonize over the suspense you built!

Another (albeit much more minor) complaint is the inconsistent use of the first person narrator. The story is told third person until page 180-something when we start to hear the narrator talk about "I" and his role in the story. It was jarring. We hoped that it was a translation issue.

These items aside, we enjoyed the read and were pleased to see a novel about Turkey. The backdrop of the coup was a good device to describe the complex inner workings of this community. The isolation of the town by the snow was also an interesting metaphor for Ka's struggle with his belief in God.

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