Archive for March, 2012

#11 Jenny Erpenbeck – Visitation


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The first few pages of Erpenbeck’s Visitation have a special hook to them. They act as bait, catching us with our mouths agape as the fairytale-esque narrative unfolds. The first chapters ‘The Gardener’ and ‘The Wealthy Farmer and his Four Daughters’ are promisingly full of Grimm and Andersen style and charm. It is after these chapters though that I lost my enthusiasm for the novella, the style shifting to something a lot more realistic and confusing.

Erpenbeck has a wonderfully simple way with words although some of the turns of phrase and expressions of dialogue left me confused and out of sorts.

The main theme of the book is a house by a lake, a dwelling that stands and survives the passage of time, new families and war. Visitation is the history of this house, the lived-in-ness of its walls, its land. The house is one of the only two constants in the story, the other being the Gardener. Few people ever stay in the house by the lake for too long a period of time – because of circumstances, as the country is ravaged by war or families move apart – but the Gardener is the only one to spend the majority of his life there.

The tale was a slow read for me as I found it difficult to remain engrossed in the lives of characters who didn’t seem to stay around. Perhaps re-reading it and truly accepting the house as the character would be more successful, but considering how so much detail is given on people rather than the house, it’s hard to stick with this idea.

I, personally, didn’t enjoy this book. Others might. One thing is certain: it never hurts to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

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