Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: "The Invention of Exile: A Novel" by Vanessa Manko

Marvelously Kafkaesque

About the book
"The Invention of Exile: A Novel" tells the story of Austin Voronkov, a Russian inventor and engineer who immigrated to US in 1913 to find his American Dream. He meets his wife Julia, but seven years later, Austin is deported partly as a result of his language limitations to defend himself against accusations of being a threat to the US government. Julia follows him and has to renounce her citizenship. They find themselves in the middle of the civil war in Russia, and their escape ultimately takes them to Mexico. Although Julia is eventually granted to re-enter the US with their children, Austin has to stay back and wait for his visa to be approved. Fourteen years later, he's still in Mexico City, fighting tirelessly and manically every day to reunite with his family.

I can't remember the last time a novel moved me so much to the core, as Vanessa Manko's "The Invention of Exile" did. It was beautifully written, almost lyrical. And although it took me a few pages to adjust to her writing to read it effortlessly, once I got into it, I couldn't put the book down.
The level of vividness Manko reaches is one that most writers can only dream to reach one day. She could describe the smallest unimportant moment in such colorful and moving detail that suddenly, if removed, the novel would not be the same.
This novel felt very Kafkaesque as Austin's situation in ways resembled the one Joseph K found himself in. I have never sympathized or empathized more with a character than I did with Austin, and my heart was genuinely breaking for him.

I don't have many bad things to say about this novel. But if I have to say one thing, it would be the non-chronological retelling of Austin and Julia's life and journey together, until he arrived in Mexico City. The actual plot takes place in 1948, in Mexico City. In addition to this there is a lot of background story being retold by the narrator. It would simply have been easier to follow, had that background story been told chronologically, since we were already jumping back and forth in time. Also, there were moments in the same paragraph when the verb tense switched for no apparent reason.

I can't begin to describe what a joy it was to read this novel. Just absolutely marvelous! It's been a while since I read Dostojevski or Kafka, but this novel certainly reminded me of them, which is a huge compliment according to me.

Author: Vanessa Manko
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Release date: August 14, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment