Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels

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Fugitive Pieces won the Orange Prize for fiction in 1997.

Jacob Beer is a Jewish poet, who was found by Athos, a Greek scholar, after he escaped from Poland. Jabob was ophaned after the Nazis killed his family, so Athos smuggled the 7 year-old boy back to Greece and reared him as a son.

The writing in this book is very skilled, but I felt it fell in to two very seperate sections. The modern section was very normal, but I found the characters quite irrating. They were too perfect, and the fact that Jacob seemed to be equally burdened by the gravity of his intellect, as we was by his memories of the Holocaust made him difficult for me to like.

The interwoven story of the persecution of the Jews was too graphic for me, and I wish that I hadn’t read it, as I’m sure that they will return to haunt me. The juxtapostion of the two stories intensified the emotion, and it was so disturbing that at times I could barely read it.

The character of Ben is introduced towards the end of the book, and I have to admit that it took me a while to realise this was a completely new person. His voice was so similar to Jacob’s that I failed to realise he was someone new. This lead to some confusion, and I still don’t really understand why he was added to the book.

Overall I think the book was just too abstract for me to appreciate. The narrative didn’t flow very smoothly, and although some parts were vividly described, it was too distressing to be a good read.

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  1. Sandy says:

    I have a habit/interest of reading books about WWII. My husband immigrated here from Poland when he was 19, and his family still lives there. His lineage, from his father back through the generations have been greatly affected by Solidarity, WWII and WWI, which probably explains why I gravitate towards these books. We have even visited Auscwitz, which isn’t far from his childhood home. There are times, though, when I have to turn my attention to something else. It tends to overwhelm me after awhile. Thanks for the review…it might have been something I would have picked up otherwise!

  2. Jackie says:

    If you are interested in the Halocaust, then this is probably a book worth reading. There are some beautifully written descriptions, and it is different from all the other books I have read on the same subject. If you like poetry then this book could well be for you. You just need to know that there are some very disturbing scenes in there. I think only the scene of the mother murdering her baby in Toni Morrison’s Beloved has effected me more.

  3. Teddy says:

    I’m with you on this one. I likes some parts and others were irritating. I also gave it three stars.

    I saw the movie before I read the book. I thought the movie was much better which is unusual. I usually like a book better.

  4. Jackie says:

    I didn’t realise there was a film version of this book – I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

  5. raidergirl3 says:

    I was thinking about reading this book, but the things you’ve described are what I don’t like in a book – abstract, and unlikable characters. This on top of the Holocaust? yikes
    I still might look into it, but I’ve been warned and know what to expect.


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