Sunday, June 15, 2008

Curl Up With a Book Sunday

This week I have my pick of two books that I have finished recently. I think I'll go with the one that was a book club selection. We are discussing this one on Wednesday, but I have a day-long class (on earned value management, oh, boy!) and will probably miss the book club meeting.

The Archivist's Story is Travis Holland's first novel. In some spots, that seemed evident as there were a few rough edges. However, his overall crafting of the characters and their plights is very good and there are much more experienced authors who would do well to study Holland's skill at creating and maintaining a mood and getting into the mind of a character in just a few pages. This is a very short novel (256 pages), but the sense of place is complete. Holland is concise, but not overly sparse in his use of words. This is a study in censorship and the destruction of ideas, but it is also a view into the destruction of hope and of humanity. When we lose our words, we lose ourselves.

Make no mistake, this book is not a happy, feel-good novel. Given the setting, I don't think I'm giving anything away by telling you that there is no happy ending. Then again, Holland does leave open the possibility for some happiness. It is just out of reach in the story we are told, but there are some who do escape and might just find it. The last novel I read, The Gathering, also was definitely not a feel-good novel, but I felt much better at the end of The Archivist's Story than I felt at the end of The Gathering. I found Holland's characters more complete and their choices more consistent than I found Enright's.

If you are looking for a well-crafted, well-researched novel that examines what happens to self when compromises begin, then you must read this one. I look forward to Mr. Holland's next novel.

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