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==Synopsis of the book:==
The story is about Damon and his three different travels. In the first he finds a German handsome stranger and they travel round Lesotho. However travelling together in tough surroundings with only yourself and your new friend can have a detrimental effect on this friendship. In the second story Demon goes alone and travels round Africa. Here he meets up with a group of backpackers who exploit the local people and enjoy a life of luxury and carefree days. The third story he travels with a good friend Anna round India. However Anna is fighting her own battle with depression and Mental illness. They travel to many beautiful places that Anna can capture on film while the two of them try to deal with their changing relationship.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was an interesting and thought provoking piece of fiction. It was quite different to the usual type of book I read and for that reason alone lacked some of the excitement I am used to in mysteries or crime thrillers. However it was made up for to some extent with the excellent descriptions and the interesting different subject matter within the stories.
For my reading matter this week I was looking for something a bit different. This was how I came to discover this novel in my local charity shop. I was just browsing when I noticed they had three copies of this book. I thought either this is a popular book as they have so many copies, but also in the back of my mind I thought why do they have three? Maybe its unpopular and people have discarded it. All I knew was I wanted to find out and based on the fact the novel proudly advised me that this book was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2010, I thought it must be the former.
I had never heard of Damon Galgut let along read any of his books before I picked up this one. This South African author wrote his first novel when he was just 17 and since then he has written another six books. His work has been compared in style to Dalton Fury and Danielle Ganek. The book I am reviewing is his latest offering and was originally published in 2010.
When I looked at the cover I was immediately interested in the author's title for the book. I was curious what he had in mind and having read it now I think it was a clever tittle. I flicked it over and was surprised there was no summery there just four in-depth compliments about the book. I was impressed on two accounts, the first was the depth in these reviews, not your usual one or two lines a proper paragraph. The second was it was actually about the book I was about to read not the authors work in general.
The summary itself was somewhat short my comparison. It was two paragraphs long and gave little away about what the stories where all about. So with a certain amount of trepidation I started to read the first story. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get into. The key feature to the book is following the writer on his various travels. I enjoyed this first story especially the relationship between Demon and his companion. I found this story compelling and I was also keen what would happen between them.
While the second story I also enjoyed as Damon this time teamed up with three travellers. One in particular he felt attracted to but as the story unfolded it seemed difficult for the two to find any time alone with the other two travellers constantly with them. In some ways for me this was the weakest as I find some of Damon's actions surprising and I wondered why this very independent man kept deciding to follow these strangers.
The last story was probably my favourite and I enjoyed Damon's travels with the successful but very up and down old friend Anna. I enjoyed the way this trip brought them initially close together but with her struggling with her Health this put a great strain on both their travels and their relationship. The way this story developed surprised me and despite being a similar length to the other two I felt more happened and there was more depth within it.
What impressed me with these three stories was the depth of thought and emotion that came with them. You really got a sense of how Damon felt about what was happening around him, his sadness and particularly his loneliness. He seemed to experience this in all the stories and the author demonstrated cleverly how this is possible when you are living in such close proximity with fellow travellers to feel completely alone.
It was in some ways a haunting story dealing with missed opportunities and the inability for someone to grasp an opportunity when it presents itself. And only much later for them to try and read and understand what was meant by them. In many ways it is a sad story and quite poignant. You always assume travels like this are undertaken as a great challenge and with much happiness, you forget how hard and how prepared you need to be for anything.
For me the story was beautifully written, I found I wanted to go back and reread some sections as they were so cleverly written I just wanted to read it again so I fully understood where the author was coming from. I found while it was always enjoyable I wanted to spend longer thinking about what I was reading and thinking about what was happening to the characters within it. And while it was true to say I didn't not like all the characters within the story it demonstrated to me that feeling of love and attraction are the most powerful emotions we have to deal with and how on occasions these feelings can just change completely. As the song says 'its a thin line between love and hate.'
The book was surprisingly short. In many ways I would have liked all three to be much longer as there was a real quality about them. I think this could easily have been done and it would have allowed the reader to form a greater understanding of the key characters within it. Because if I was to fault this book at all I would say that with the stories being short you did not have the opportunity to get a good understanding of their characters with the exception of Damon who was obviously in all the stories.
I think this is a novel you will either love or hate, that you will get or not. For me I enjoyed the backdrop of travelling round with the author all these very different places and learning out there features and beauty.
I found I really enjoyed this thought proving book and as such I would certainly recommend it. As it was beautifully written and for once it certainly made me think about what I was reading. I did however miss the usual mystery I enjoy from my crime novels but the author did in the last and best story manage to create suspense. I will be checking out my charity shop again soon and hope they will have more from this author on sale soon.
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Year first Published: 2010
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS August 2012.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010, Damon Galgut's latest novel, In a Strange Room, tells the story of the relationships formed by a traveller on his journeys through Greece, India and Africa. The tale depicts tragedy after tragedy, as the chameleon-like Damon goes from being 'The Follower' of the beautiful, yet enigmatic German, Reiner; 'The Lover' of Jerome, the complex Swiss and 'The Guardian' of troubled Anna, who requires round the clock attention and care.
Throughout the book we are reminded that there is something missing in the traveller's life. Damon is hopelessly restless, travelling with just a backpack and a sense of, searching for that something that makes him whole: something to make his home feel like home. He searches in back-street motels and tackles corrupt border controls to find the love and completion he so desperately needs. We soon learn that the traveller appears to have something of an antidote to the 'Midas touch' about him as we see many of his pursuits ending in despair. Damon crosses paths and builds friendships with many other wandering waifs and strays, yet the traveller's isolation seems to intensify with every 'goodbye'.
The story, whilst captivating and emotional, holds no moral for the reader. No matter how kind or grateful Damon is, just as in real life, it does not prevent him from experiencing terrible loss. Despite being laden in heartbreak and anguish, In a Strange Room leaves the reader with a sense of beauty, rather than dejection.
The novel is superbly written and Galgut's unprecedented flouting of the conventions of grammar adds an interesting dimension to the tale. Damon the traveller and Damon the authorial narrator become confused by the use of first and third person narration, sometimes even in the same sentence. With the line between protagonist and narrator blurred, the reader is left questioning if and where fiction ends and autobiography begins. However, the destabilising effect of this fractured voice involves the reader all the more as we seem to step out of the novel, reflecting on Damon's character and his relationships with the other travellers, and then back into the story, seeing life through his eyes. This does not necessarily make for the easiest of reads, and so this is probably not a novel for bedtime reading if you really want to keep track of the story.
Another noteworthy aspect of the novel is Galgut's extraordinary ability to breathe life into landscapes and scenes. We are taken by the hand and both the grandest of plains and smallest of detail are pointed out with such exquisite accuracy and talent that the romantic poets of yesteryear would, no doubt, be envious of. From the breathtaking mountains of Greece to the squalid Indian hotel, the reader is seamlessly drawn in to the surroundings.
Overall, In a Strange Room, provides a superb read. At times devastating, at times enchanting, Damon Galgut has pulled out all the stops in this stunning rollercoaster novel. This is sure to be a bestseller.
The cover of the book isn't necessarily one that would jump out from the shelves and grab you by the neck, in fact, it seems an almost direct copy of the sleeve from Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach'. In fact, the only reason I picked the novel up in the first place was because it was part of my uni course's reading list.
At the moment, this novel is only avaliable in hardback, and therefore, when buying from a bookshop, it is rather pricey. Waterstones are offering it for the RRP, £15.99, but amazon.com is offering the novel for £7.04 with free delivery.
I'm not entirely sure what to think of this book. Yes, it's modernist in it's approach to story-telling and yes, it is thought-provoking, but for me, this wasn't an easy read. In truth, I only read the book because I had to for my university course! To take in the story properly, I would recommend two readings, and although this probably won't take long (it took me 3 hours to read from cover to cover), it can be tedious to repeat read. This book isn't the sort of book I'd recommed taking on holiday for poolside reading, nor is a novel to read if you want a story with a happy, uplifting ending, but, having said all this, I would still recommend this novel (providing you don't have to pay £16 like I did!), as it is something a bit different from any other novel I've read.
This 256-page novel was published in 2010 by Atlantic.