Sunday, March 22, 2015

Book Review: The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith by Peter Carey

Let me start by saying that I have read other books by this author and now we are at a 1:3 on my recommendations to read them.

I keep trying Peter Carey books because I found Jack Maggs a fantastic novel that I would highly recommend but unfortunately that set the bar so high and the rest of my attempts have been very disappointing. I highly discourage you from reading Lillywhacker and His Illegal Self and now I'm going to say the same about this most recent attempt.

Tristan Smith is born into a theater troupe (knows as the Sirkus) by being the son of the leader/organizer/star of the group. Tristan is born with disabilities that lead the hospital staff to quietly infer to his mother that he should not be allowed to survive. She takes him home to her ramshackle theater and raises him with a cast of characters. While his disabilities are not fully explained we get glimpses to his visible differences (no lips, eyes that are completely white, undeveloped legs that he cannot walk on, etc.) and his keen and thoughtful mind as he narrates the story. Tristan wants to be a part of the group and perform in the worst way. While we aren't sure exactly who his father is (there are a few possibilities) we know that he is either a patron of the theater or an actor. 

What makes this story more difficult to follow is the made up lands that are constantly referred to throughout the book, with pseudo historical facts and terms provided throughout the narrative along with annotated footnotes at the end of each chapter. Apparently this is a metaphor or political statement about the relationship between the US and Canada but I found that it just made the story hard to follow.

I didn't finish this one. I gave up. The story rambled and went nowhere. I don't care about Voorstad and Elfica. Somehow the author thinks they are very important. I think it made this unnecessarily complicated. I won't be trying another Carey book for a while.


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