Quirky, quizzical, Bohemian, marginally surreal; homage to geographical imprints on our daily activities and the lives that evolve therefrom. As the days pass, Lady Luck lingers in the background: is she smiling or frowning? Thanks to Louise Penny for suggesting "Nikolski" as a read; yes, indeed, a pearl of a book.
When I finished Nikolski the first time I was struck by a number of things. It read like three trains on connecting tracks, all bound for a collision at top speed, a collision that never develops. It was at once thrilling and disappointing. It was clear as a sunny day what was going on, yet absolutely puzzling with all the synchronicity between the three plots and no glue to tie it together. The images were enchantingly ironic (how could you not love a son writing letters for decades to his wandering mother at random addresses in the hopes one would connect) but frustratingly disconnected. What was Dickner saying besides sometimes ships pass in the night, sometimes mysteries remain unsolved?
But just before I composed a review stating the obvious (or admitting to the obscure) I read the enlightening, well-written review of August Bourré which led me to sit down and read it all over again.
I think he's right. Instead of three trains, I believe there is just one: the "My name is unimportant" narrator who is has no friends or family, who collects travel books but never travels, a man with "flights of fancy," a dreamer who finds his own life pointless, a hermit in a used bookstore, his "universe made up entirely of books." The clues are subtle but they are there. In the end, he frees himself from the detritus which he as collected; he takes a chance; he moves on. But the catalyst in his transformation is the invention of his own mind. The lovely fiction of an imaginary half brother (the son who wrote letters) and an imaginary cousin whose fascination with piracy gets her into hot water is the charm of Nikolski. Their stories are bold, amazing, titillating in their serendipity, rich in detail, and sprawling in its scope. They are the ships that nearly collide. They are lives that a reader can fall in love with. But in the end, they are smoke in the mind of a man who at last has lost his false (Nikolski) compass and found a reason to risk living himself.
What an amazing read.
A delightful little novel; I can see why it was the winner of CBC Radio 1’s 2010 “Canada Reads” competition. Intriguing & offbeat characters - quite stark in that they were mostly ‘on their own’, acting independently in big cities but liked how their stories linked up along the way. Imaginatively introduces themes about life in modern Canada (the vastness, travel & nomadic lifestyles, multi-ethnic/cultural melting pot, understanding the world and people through their belongings, their rubbish & literature, stories).
Absolutely stunning. One of the best of Canadian fiction. It seems I like Canadian lit best. Check out plot from title click.
An enjoyable read that is not without problems. Intriguing characters and the author's eye for quirky details kept me interested from start to finish. Not a masterpiece by any means, but a fun and strangely rewarding tale.
Pirates. Trash. Fish. Destiny. Maps. A village, “inhabited by thirty-six people, five thousand sheep and an indeterminate number of dogs.” What Nikolski lacks in plot, it certainly makes up for in uniqueness of theme and setting. Throughout the novel, the three protagonists remain ignorant of their biological connection but are inexorably linked by nomadism and idiosyncratic obsessions.
Noah, an archaeology student, Joyce, a fish-store clerk and an unnamed used bookstore employee all emerge from far-fetched, dysfunctional childhoods as rootless adults living in Montreal. Dickner's characters lack depth and develop little; his saving grace is a whimsical, quirky style that ultimately produces a mostly enjoyable read.
Borrowed Apr, 21, 2010
Very light hearted and easy to read. I really enjoyed this
Canada Reads Winner 2010
Winner of Canada Reads 2010. I liked how this book was constructed - three main characters living parallel lives that intersect in clever, subtle ways. The reader has to pay attention, or they'll get lost. Set in Montreal, and in many places throughout Canada - I felt a great sense of place. Amusing and very enjoyable read.
ukiuq thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over
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