Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: The Dissident: A Novel by Nell Fruedenberger

A Slow Paced Book that Surprised Me

This book took me a long time to read. It wasn't especially long or filled with difficult prose but I kept putting it down and then picking it back up. I have made a resolution that I won't continue with books I don't enjoy but I think in some ways I was so curious about how the plot would come to an end that I had to see it through. It wasn't that the book was bad or poorly written. It just took me some time to get to know these characters and see through all their layers which I think the author made happen at a slow pace intentionally.

The story builds upon itself, changing perspectives from the view of some of the central characters. The story centers around Yuan Zhao, a Chinese artist who originally was a painter but became a performance artist. He is also a political dissident who has the opportunity to come to America for one year, to work on his art while teaching at the St. Anselm's School for Girls, in a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. One of the families in that community has opened their home to him and let him settle in with them. Cece Travers is delighted to say she has an artist living with them and it seems that maybe this is to divert some of her attention from the problems inside her own family. The artist and the family do not intersect as much as one might think even if they share living spaces and work spaces. They continue to remain isolated in both culture and interaction.

Through the recounting of their stories, we learn a lot about Yuan Zhao and CeCe Travers, as well as a host of other characters. Most of all, we discover that outer appearances may not be consistent to what is really going on.

While the book was slow for me, mostly because I kept putting it down, I found it satisfying and was happy with the ending. I'm sure if it was a different time of year, and not days full of sunshine and activity, I might have completed it sooner. I do recommend it as it's an interesting read.

No comments:

Post a Comment