Five words from the blurb: Chechnya, soldiers, doctor, friend, responsibilities
I first heard of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena when an unsolicited review copy dropped through my letterbox. I was instantly drawn to the title and looked forward to reading it nearer its publication date. Since then this book has been getting rave reviews, especially from the US where it was published slightly earlier.
The book is set in war-torn Chechnya and takes place in the five days after 8-year-old Havaa’s father is abducted by Russian soldiers. Havaa’s neighbour, Akhmed, watches in horror as her house is burnt to the ground, but once the soldiers have left he rescues the young girl, taking her to the safety of the local hospital.
The book began really well. I loved the atmospheric descriptions of the snow-covered village and the uncertainty around Havaa’s future, but as the book progressed I became increasingly bored. The pace of the book slowed and I found myself with no real compulsion to read on. The characters lacked depth and I realised I didn’t care about them.
The plot improved in places and the last 50 pages were especially good, but overall I was disappointed. I can’t fault the vivid writing, but something about the story didn’t quite feel right. It lacked the realism produced when written by someone present during events. It’s hard to pinpoint, but I found it lacking passion and that special spark. It also seemed to be missing the Russian mindset, reading like a group of Americans placed in Chechnya.
I seem to be one of the only ones not to fall in love with this book so it is probably still worth checking it out, especially if you like slower paced literary fiction.
The thoughts of other bloggers:
This is a beautifully wrought novel that brought tears to my eyes. CaribousMom
This book is so emotionally stunning, so beautifully written, and so elegantly painful that I could just sing its’ praises for hours on this blog. Sassy Peach
It’s not a fast-paced book, but the writing is so amazing and the story so intriguing that I couldn’t put it down. Book Hooked Blog