Review for Songs

                        Songs from the other side of the wall – *****

                                                            By Dan Holloway

17 year-old Sandrine grows up in post-communist Hungary and dreams of moving to the West. An Eastern European “Norwegian Wood” if a certain Japanese writer doesn’t mind the comparison.

Sandrine’s mother left the day the Berlin Wall fell. Ever since, Sandrine has dreamed of escaping her father’s Hungarian vineyard and following her to the West.

December 31, 2006. Sandrine plays at a concert celebrating Romania’s accession to the EU. A place waiting at the Sorbonne; part of a vibrant online political community; in love with mysterious Englishwoman Claire, Sandrine’s life is finally beginning.

Hours later, a random act of violence shatters Sandrine’s dreams, leaving Claire dead. Sandrine embarks on an obsessive quest for information about Claire. Diaries that appear from nowhere, an elderly, apparently telepathic, fashion mogul, and a talking bull populate a journey across Europe and cyberspace that ultimately reconnects her with her mother, her father, and her country.

Instead of writing a review ourselves, we’d like to share a note the author received from cult writer and recluse, Thomas Pynchon. It cannot be understated how unique this note is…the author never writes to anyone. Does this mean the book is good? Well, yes. Yes it does.

‘Dan. I’ve read as far as chapter 13, and have to break off now, which isn’t really fair, as I like to read everything.

This is the kind of book I read for pleasure. You start with a discussion about conceptual art, which is very bold – forget all those articles we shared about How to Write a First Chapter – and which works, not least because it sets the tone for the book. Your style is not unlike Murakami, in that you are not really a naturalistic writer, but you are capable of great lyricism, as in the letter from Claire. Some of your sensuous images (of silk against skin, for example) remind me more of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What I loved was your detailed observation, and your ability to make the familiar strange. This means your writing is always fresh and never cliched (‘… tearing it clumsily like I’m gutting a fish with a blunt knife.’ ‘… like the dentist used to do before he told me I needed a filling.’ )

Wish you all the success you can handle.’


Review by Thomas Pynchon

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