Saturday, May 06, 2006

Liberation by Joanna Scott

This was another discovery on the "New Fiction" shelf at the library. I've been reading about World War II this year, so it seemed worth trying. Also, I was intrigued by the idea of a book set on the island of Elba, about which I know nothing other than "Able was I...."

In an interview that I just read, Kelly Link stated that some novels are really nothing more than extended short stories. I would say that this is an accurate description of Liberation. It is a light little story about a young Italian girl, Adriana, who briefly shelters a Senegalese soldier who is part of the French Colonial forces sent to liberate Elba from the Germans. Chapters about Adriana as a 10-year-old alternate with chapters about Adriana as she is suffering from a pulmonary embolism on a train in New Jersey 60 years later. None of these chapters about the older Adriana are at all necessary or even very interesting, and no effort is made to show the transition that the character has obviously made. The book is very enjoyable when it describes Adriana, her mother, their villa with its vineyards and olive orchards, the citizens of Elba, and especially Amdu, the homesick 17-year-old Senegalese soldier who, wounded by a sniper's bullet, ends up briefly taking refuge with Adriana and her family. But it really is a short story, at heart: 100 pages of a good story, and another 100 of excess fluff.

I did not know anything about the role of the French Colonial Forces in World War II, just as I did not know much about Elba. So it's good to learn something. Now I'm going to say something unbelievably, embarrassingly silly: throughout the book I couldn't help but keep referring to the Elbans, in my mind, as the Elbonians.

You can read a long review of this book here.
(Book 21, 2006)


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