Saturday, October 15, 2016

Complex, Slightly Earthy, with a Subtle Finish

Book Review: The Wharf of Chartrons by Jean-Paul Malaval

One of the downsides of being an Amazon Vine program reviewer is that there is a time limit for submission of reviews. As a consequence there can be an unconscious urge to quickly read the book, quickly deciding whether or not you like it, and quickly writing a review.

It's easy to get caught up in the numbers game of having the most reviews and getting a high ranking, which means you need to read as many books as quickly as possible. And most modern fiction makes that possible. Short sentences, uncomplicated characters, and clear and concise plots make for fast reads.

The Wharf of Chartrons can be a challenging read if you are used to the formulaic writing of the James Patterson school of fiction. Not that there is anything wrong with James Patterson - I used to read him back when he wrote his own stories. But my tastes have matured, I want more than a clean, crisp story with a big finish. I want subtlety, complexity, finesse; like a good wine it should be intellectually satisfying.

As noted, Chartrons was originally published in French. I did not have any difficulties with the translation, but it has kept its French aroma and flavor. The pacing is slower, more like a European meal than a stop at MacDonald's, full of subtexts and nuance. It is a period piece, and I found the language and plot were appropriate for the time and place. The Industrial Revolution was arriving in a cloud of smoke and noise, the old ways were dying, and not everyone was happy about it.

I found Chartrons well worth the time it took to read and savor it.

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