miércoles, 24 de abril de 2013

I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

Spanish cover for I Am the Messenger
I like it better than the UK/USA/AU covers
Summary (from the back cover):

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?


The plot of this book sounded only mildly interesting, but I trusted the skills of Markus Zusak after reading The Book Thief back in 2008 (although you can find my review here). Well, it turns out I was right: plot is the less interesting thing for Markus Zusak. I am now convinced he could write an interesting version of the Yellow Pages if he wanted to. In his own words:
“Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.” 
Death - The Book Thief 

My favorite part of the book are the characters: each of the five main characters (yes, I'm counting Doorman) are unique and believable, witty and adorable, each in their own way.  I cared for them. I like that the love story between Audrey and Ed is not overdone, how real the feelings they have for each other are. The different expressions of friendships are also remarkably portrayed. Zusak knows his way to the human heart.

I also cared for each of the messages. I couldn't choose my favorite, but I'm sure Milla comes close to first. Even though every message was heart-breaking, special and original, and the solutions often surprised me, Milla's is just wonderful. I melted when I read this:
“I think she ate a salad and some soup.
And loneliness.
She ate that, too. ” 
I have a soft-spot for older people, I can't help it. When I realized Jimmy was Milla's husband (dead in a war maybe?), I thought I was going to cry. It was only perfect that their favorite book was Wuthering Heights. Although I don't consider it a love story, I can understand why it symbolizes love sometimes. If you aren't moved by the "Nelly, I am Heathcliff" passage, I'm afraid you're most definitely a replicant. Sorry.

Wuthering Heights is not the only novel that appears in I Am the Messenger. Zusak liberally sprinkled his book with great classics. It doesn't turn out like name-dropping at all, but like genuine love for literature. It inspires you to go read all the books. I appreciate that in an author.

And we're coming to the ending. I know it has been the subject of great uproar, but I liked it. It was the great ribbon to tie it all, only in a very unusual way. It helps that I like metafiction. But I think it was the only possible way for everything to make sense. Through the course of the novel, I couldn't help but being bothered by the blurry time-frame, signaled by the obvious lack of internet and cell phones, and by the abundance of coincidences that kept the plot going. Breaking the fourth wall explains everything in a very intelligent way.

If you fear you're not going to like Markus Zusak's previous novels after reading The Book Thief, give this a try. It is worth it. 

Rating: 4/5 - I really liked this.

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