I read at least part of this book in college — in the original German — but I’d forgotten just how strange and twisted of a book it is. It’s rather intense overall, especially with the style it’s written in. It’s quite detailed and rather heavy at times, but it’s well-written almost throughout. There were only a few parts, especially towards the end, where I didn’t feel as captivated, usually when there was repetition of certain events.
As for the story itself, it’s quite difficult in many ways, and quite often. Disturbing, emotional, twisted, tragic, and lots of other “fun” stuff. Not surprising given our narrator, who seems to be precocious and talented, but also wicked and a bit insane as well. The other characters are all quite intriguing in their own ways, but you end up questioning how much you can trust the narrator in all of this, especially given the things he does to the others.
I think I’m glad I read (or re-read) this book, but I don’t know that I will be re-reading this in future. It’s such an intense book, and I can appreciate it for what it is, but I think I’ve had my fill, for now at least.
The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell follows the elderly Feliks Zhukovski, a Polish leftist who has made France is home, as he looks back on his life as a strong supporter of the Communists. He starts to feel like his life is unraveling, and he ends up really examining how his beliefs were built, and tries to justify them, despite all the Communists actually did in Eastern Europe.
Initially, I liked the story, but after awhile, it felt like there was a shift from showing the story to telling it, starting with a letter from Feliks long-lost mother. It just started feeling less compelling to me, and I started to lose interest. At the very end of the book, it felt like things were tied up too neatly, like a fairy tale ending had to be tacked on. It wasn’t very satisfying though, and felt too mushy, especially contrasted with the character Feliks had seemed to be throughout the rest of the book.
I was playing around with my library’s online catalog, browsing through the subject listings for fiction books, and I ended up finding A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka while looking at novels that take place in Poland. The summary sounded interesting enough, so I picked this up the next time I went to the library, and I’m glad I did.
The book follows several generations of families from a Polish village, switching between the time around WWII and the mid-90s, after the end of communism. Sometimes this sort of construction can be confusing, but I think it was really nicely done, and you end up piecing together the family and their stories as you read along.
Another element I liked was that Polish words are interspersed with the English. I knew a few already (my mother’s side of the family is originally from Poland), but most are easily figured out from context, though you might want to look at the pronunciation guide on the author’s web site.
It’s hard to put my finger on what made this book so enjoyable to me, though I did feel a bit of connection to the author, whose family is Polish and settled in Illinois as well. Even so, I think it was a really nice book, and I would highly recommend it.