Monday, August 23, 2010

The Breaking of Eggs (giveaway!)

I'm not totally sure what to say about this one. I finished reading The Breaking of Eggs and sat on it for a bit before starting this review. And still, I'm not sure.

The first half of the book I adored. Because it's all about thoughts and ideas, politics and history. The second half of the book I was wishing away as I read along. The second half of the book is all about emotions and feelings and relationships gone right/wrong (depending on who you ask.) Then I came to the end of the book the author made the point of his main character having gone through a transformation - as a thought-loving communist to an emotional, tender-hearted leftist who truly loved. (I confess I liked him better when he was a dismissive communist. Then I could avoid the inappropriate relationships that abounded in the second half of the book!)

This book tells the story of Feliks Zhukovski, a Polish communist/leftist, who moved and "lived" in Paris. The story is set in 1991, after the fall of communism and Feliks is left grasping at the straws of broken ideas. The Berlin Wall has come crashing down and, along with it, come Felik's false interpretations of what his past history truly is.

Author Jim Powell writes beautifully and thoughtfully. I completely enjoyed reading this story. (Although I must say that sometimes I thought he went on a bit too long, stretching the description out a bit too far. Occasionally.) I related to his descriptions. For example, the way he described New York fit it to a T (in my humble opinion):

"No one did anything at a measured pace in New York. It was at double time, like one of those speeded-up old films. It seemed so frenetic. I found myself exhausted just watching it. I could see no way I could live life that way myself or would want to." (page 59-60)

Or the truths Powell writes about when it comes to life in general (although he was writing about politics specifically):

"Another possibility was a military takeover. There were plenty of people longing for de Gaulle to impose a dictatorship, if only to prevent the communists from doing so, as I'm sure you will remember. That's the trouble with times like that. When you have a threat from one extreme, people run to the other extreme to prevent it. It doesn't matter which extreme is the devil and which is the savior. What matters is that the center collapses. Everything reasonable goes straight out the window." (page 136)

And could it be possible for me to identify any more with Felik's love of rules and regulations?! I think not.

"I liked those rules. Principles needed to be set out clearly, with no deviation. I liked the lines that rules created. I liked the boxes you could make from the lines, the compartments you could form. I liked the barriers and partitions that sprang from them, the bulwarks and groynes of clarity. To me these things symbolized order. They laid life out in a logical way. They prevented error. They precluded chaos. I did not like the chaos. I wanted to know where I stood." (page 295-295)

(My friend J suggested that I have this quote sewn onto a cushion somewhere. It's so me. I definitely like knowing where I stand!)

I think that last paragraph is actually a perfect example of the writing you will find in this book. It offers a perfect description of a feeling, but it can also go on a tad bit. Parts of the book made me think of Marilyn Robinson in its style.

As a basic summary of the story itself, it is the realization of Feliks that life is not all that he thought it might have been, is everything that it is, and is incredibly unpredictable. It's a comparison between communism and capitalism and the exposure of the evilness of Stalin. Still, it is about valuing the things that you like about yourself and affirming the good in life that you see. While Powell goes along in this story/lesson though, he is also tossing out some foul language and there is a great deal of flippancy towards the sacredness of the marriage relationship, if you catch my drift.

Ultimately, I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I loved it for the thoughtful prose and rich European History. I hated it for the foul language scattered about and inappropriate relationships. So, I'm left not knowing whether to recommend it or not. I can tell you that I had a hard time putting it down. The first half was so solid and enjoyable that I simply had to finish it. I cared about Feliks specifically and the story generally. As a modern novel - a piece of historical fiction - I think it's pretty good. (Perhaps I should say that it's cleaner than I expected but more sordid than I particularly wished!)

I leave it to you.

I DO have a copy of The Breaking of Eggs to giveaway if you think you might be interested in this read. How to win? Simply leave a comment below. As a fun twist - if your father or grandfather fought in World War II, leave a second comment for a second entry!

This contest is open to U.S. Residents only and will be open through Tuesday, August 31st.

"You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs." - The Apologists of Josef Stalin



Annette W. said...

I think I may feel the same way about this book as you do...struggle with some, but love the story.

I liked how you ended the review with a final quote...very appropriate.

Annette W. said...

One of my grandfathers did fight in WWII!

B said...

Well, this definitely sounds like something I'd enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Please enter me in this contest. I just found your blog by accident.
It's a nice surprise.


Anonymous said...

I would love to read The Breaking of Eggs :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

Anonymous said...

My father was too young and my grandfather was too old, but my oldest uncle fought in World Ward II -- if that counts.

Mozi Esme said...

Hmmm - I think I want to read this!

We posted about this giveaway at Winning Readings:

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Linda Kish said...

I would like the chance to read this for myself. Who knows what I might think of it.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Linda Kish said...

My father, step father and my uncles served in WWII.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Moridin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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