16 December 2012

Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner

Thoughts and Reflections
This novel had been on my reading list for sometime. The novel was in such high demand, that my hold on the book at the library expired before I could get my hands on the book (that's right, with more than 500 people waiting to read this thing, it took more than a year for me to get it). Oddly, I finally got my hands on it when I was wandering through the library trying to sate myself in those awkward days when you suddenly have time and have finished your current books, but your new requests haven't come in just yet. There it was, just sitting on the shelf and I snagged it at long last. I dove in the moment I got home (and had a cup of tea in my hand) and liked it immediately.

The novel is a strange tale of three characters with a entwined heritage of which none of the characters are aware. The novel is about life and adventure. It's about trying new things and challenging the status quo. I enjoyed how the lives of the characters intermingled and crossed, but never quite met. It added a mystical quality to their nomadic lives. I liked where things ended, which was by no means the end of a family history or the end of the adventures. I liked the quirks and uniqueness of these normal, yet extraordinary people.

I read the book in translation (because I am a bad Canadian and don't speak, read or understand French). The translation was fantastic, however, and (I can only imagine) managed to preserve to zest and tone of the original. Kudos to the translator Lazer Laderhendler!

The book is fairly unconventional. I have trouble isolating themes for the novel, but, as any book with strong themes, I find myself thinking about the characters and story long after I've finished the book. I suppose potential themes could be something about taking control of ones own life or finding the adventure in life or appreciating each individual's unique history. But, in some ways, themes feel secondary. The book doesn't wrap up tidily with inspiring closing remarks or a sense of closure. Rather the book ends leaving the reader wondering about the lives. Perhaps the author was trying to say that our lives don't have to have a particular purpose, that we don't necessarily have a particular lesson to learn, that really our lives are just about living and living can come in a myriad of forms. Ultimately, this is a story about journeys not endings.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this novel. I loved the twists and turns. I loved how it ambled through daily lives. I loved that it was set in Montreal. And I loved all the little tidbits for the reader to muse over. I would certainly recommend the novel.

Here is a link to a review from the Quill and Quire if you are wanting a more comprehensive review. I feel as though my mind is still processing this book more than a week after I've finished reading it.

About the Author
Nicolas Dickner was born in Quebec in 1972 and is a Canadian author and songwriter. He currently lives is Montreal and works as a literary columnist for Voir. Nikolski was published in 2005 and translated into English in 2008. The novel has won a number of awards in Canada, including the Governor General's Award in 2008 and CBC's Canada Reads in 2010.

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