Wednesday 22 May 2013

Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas - Book Review

Title: Dead Europe
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Publisher: Atlantic
Publication Date: 2011 (2005)
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction    
Source: Xmas Gift
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Dead Europe sets sharp realism against folk tale and fable, a world of hauntings and curses against a fiercely political portrait of a society. The energy in the writing, the pure fire in the narrative voice and the fearlessness of the tone make the novel immensely readable, as well as fascinating and original, and establish Christos Tsiolkas in the first rank of contemporary novelists.' Colm Toibin Isaac is a photographer in his mid-thirties, travelling through Europe. It is the post-Cold War Europe of a united currency, illegal immigration and of a globalised homogenous culture. In his mother's mountain village he encounters a Balkan vampire. Subsequently, as his journey continues across Italy, Eastern Europe and Britain he discovers that ghosts keep appearing in the photographs he takes, providing clues to a family secret and tragedy. Parallel to Isaac's story we are in the Greece of World War II. A peasant family is asked to provide protection to a Jewish boy fleeing the Germans. It is this boy who will become the vampire. From the mountains of Greece to the inner-city streets of 1960s Melbourne, we trace the journey of this malevolent force as it feeds on generation after generation of Isaac's family, seeking revenge and justice. (Goodreads Synopsis)

Dead Europe is a book that is both interesting and yet somehow unfulfilling at the same time. The book began strongly and Isaac's character came across well. I also enjoyed the interspersions of the second narrative. Tsiolkas is aiming for a kind of magical realism and that worked in the second narrative, but felt a little forced and unbelievable when it bled into Isaac's storyline.

This book has some interesting things to say about religion and persecution, but it paints a bleak picture and the ending feels unnecessarily cynical and a tad sudden and rushed after what has been a long build up.

In conclusion, this is probably one of those books that a reader should pick up, but it will not necessarily be one every one of those readers will enjoy. 

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