Saturday, 6 March 2010

Conspirators - the book at blogtime

Michael Andre Bernstein's Conspirators is split into three parts.  A brief prelude in 1925, a longer middle section (he probably calls it something proper, but I can't remember what it is and I can't be bothered to go upstairs and find out) set in 1913, and a coda back in 1925.  He poses a question in the prelude, explores its background in the middle and then doesn't answer it in the coda.

Did I find that annoying? Well, thinking about it now, yes.  Very.  But when I finished it last night. No, not really.  Somehow, the question, which seemed so important at the beginning, just wasn't at the end.  In fact, I find myself, now, wondering why he bothered with the prelude at all. 

Essentially, this book is an exciting spy thriller set in the last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Unfortunately, for me the plot was befuddled with lots of digressions into the internal thoughts of the characters.  There are, undoubtedly, some readers who love that sort of thing: The Times commends the "considerable imagination [that] goes into developing the interior lives of all the characters".  Sadly, I'm not one of them. 

Or at least I thought I wasn't. But then, weirdly, I enjoyed it.  Yes, I found looking at a several double pages of print without a redeeming paragraph break rather off-putting (honestly, I'm not as thick as that makes me sound - but really, paragraphs are a good thing.  We all know that, don't we?).  But I found at the end that I really knew these characters.  I understood their fears, their loves, their needs and their motivations, and as a result, even though they were, in many cases, unpleasant, I empathised with them.  And yes, I did feel that it dragged at times and I wanted to get on with the story.  But once the plot gathered pace, I couldn't put it down.  And it made me think, and it will stay with me.  

Which I suspect is less likely to be true of my next book:  Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl.  I need a break of easy reading and light hearted fun after two weeks of political assassinations, torture and doomed empire and I love Sophie Kinsella, so I'm really looking forward to this. I suspect I may have to ration it, if I'm not to be writing another booky post tomorrow!


  1. oh i don't think i could have read a book without paragraphs like that! am impressed you finished it!

  2. So was I! In fact, I think it was only the pressure of knowing that I'd put it up here that I was reading it that forced me to finish!


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