Monday, October 8, 2007

Alibi by Joseph Kanon

A friend gave me this book. She had been intrigued by the topic. However, after reading part of the book she got bored and never finished it. Thinking I might be more interested, she passed it on to me. I understand why she quit. The plot should be fascinating, but the book is laborious to read.

The story takes place in 1946 Venice. Adam, an American soldier who has just finished his job as a Nazi hunter in Germany, travels to Venice to visit his mother. He falls in love with a Jewish woman who recognizes the doctor who turned her father in and had him sent to the internment camps. Murder, intrigue, and witch hunts ensue. World War II Italy is rarely studied in any detail due to the overwhelming shadow placed on it by Germany. The immediate post-war years – especially the attempts to ferret out the “true” fascists from those who were just trying to get by – is likewise not greatly studied. So, the topic definitely made me want to read more.

The overarching theme of the book revolves around moral responsibility. By cooperating with the fascists did someone automatically become guilty? Or, was it justified to cooperate for self-preservation? And, were some people’s lives worth more than others based on their political background, religion, and own moral compass? All of these questions would logically suggest an engaging story.

But it was SLOW!! The story is very dialogue heavy. I have an ongoing debate with an acquaintance about the merits of dialogue versus description. He prefers dialogue; I apparently focus more on descriptive passages. I would guess he might like this book. Kanon has a good ability at writing English the way a foreign-language speaker would speak it. But, for the reader it becomes repetitive and dry. Long conversations that go in circles dominate the story as the characters repeatedly cover the same material over and over. By the end of the story you have a more complete picture of the role of the main actors during the war. But, the 400 pages of suspense are not worth it for the answer on the final pages.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Yikes! Not one I can imagine wanting to pick up any time soon!