Sunday, September 4, 2016

Little Nothing

Title:  Little Nothing
Author:  Marisa Silver
Publication Information:  Blue Rider Press. 2016. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0399167927 / 978-0399167928

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "'redstavte si kvetini!' the midwife yells, her voice reading the baby as warped and concave sounds."

Favorite Quote:  "... sometimes you can spend a lot of sorrow trying to change things for the better when what was first was best. It's only that you were too foolish to realize it."

I am not entirely sure what this book was about. I do know that it's one of the oddest books I have read in quite a while. The interpretation of the book, I suppose differs based on how from which perspective you analyze it.

In its entirety, the story seems a retelling of an old folk tale to mythological story. Despite the indications, there is no note that the book is a retelling of a old tale. "In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century..." So begins the description of the book. This description is reminiscent of the beginnings of a fairy tale. "Once upon a time in a land far way..." The story is based on a childless couple who would do anything for a child; this too is a beginning for many a fairy tale. Warranted, this book is less a fairy tale and more a tale of horror with wolves, werewolves, humans who are monsters, and so-called monsters who are so very human.

Pavla is one of the two main characters of the book; this book is the story of her life. She is born to parents who have longed for a child, enough to seek gypsy tonics and prescription as an intervention and means to get pregnant. Pavla is born a dwarf in a place and at a time where that is viewed unfortunately as a deformity, a curse, something to be cured, and even something to be feared. In some ways, Pavla's issue throughout her life is one which many women face - the issue of being defined by and judged by physical appearances. Whether beautiful or seemingly monstrous, Pavla is haunted by the world's perceptions of her physical nature. Her survival throughout depends on her ability to transform herself and escape her current situation. In this sense, the book could be interpreted as commentary on the definition of beauty and the views that confine women to certain stereotypes. However, Pavla's transformations are too fantastic, too abrupt, and too far removed from reality for a "real" interpretation to come through.

Danilo is the man who has loved Pavla since the day he meets her. He ends up responsible for one of Pavla's transformations in a horrific way, but he loves her still. His love ends up a protective one as Pavla's transformations continue. Through it all, Danilo himself transforms from a meek, scared boy into a strong man.

I love the premise of the book - all the premises of the book. A fairy tale or folk tale retold. A woman who transforms herself throughout her life. A man who is devoted in his love. Unfortunately, despite all that, I do not enjoy the book. First, I can't decide if it's a fairly injected into reality or reality inserted into a fairy tale. Either way, unfortunately, it does not work for me. The characters are just a little bit too real to suspend disbelief and enjoy the fantasy, and the story is too far removed from reality for it to be believable. Second, the book includes a lot of unpleasant physical details, from its beginning descriptions of a woman cursing her way through labor pains to descriptions of body parts and body fluids. The descriptions are just unpleasant to read.  Third, the transitions in the book are abrupt. I find myself reading and trying to figure out what happened and then having to go back and reread a few pages once I understand. The abruptness does not add to the story; it just makes the book more challenging to read. Finally, even the ending brings no resolution, just an ending. At the end, I am left still wondering what happened and why. I am left not knowing quite what to make of this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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