Latest Review: "The Queen's Caprice" by Jean Echenoz

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Christopher Iacono on The Queen’s Caprice by Jean Echenoz, translated by Linda Coverdale and published by The New Press.

What I particularly liked about this review is the last paragraph. I’m one of those people who has a lot of peeves over readers complaining that a book “is too long” or “takes too long to read,” or even how it’s annoying if a reader has to turn to an encyclopedia or the internet to find some answers to aid in understanding a book on a deeper level. Some readers think all these things are hinderances: I think they’re what makes reading fun. It’s great when a book—in this case of short stories or “little literary objects“—compels a reader to read slower, to think, to research. To prove that, just because each story isn’t 200 pages long, it can pack just as much readingness into it as full-length novels.

Here’s the beginning of Chris’s review:

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As a result, his characters, as well as his readers, are faced with the unexpected. Sometimes the results are quite humorous, but sometimes they are so fascinating that the reader is not sure what to think. Whatever events take place in a piece, though, the French writer, who won the Prix Goncourt for I’m Gone (also available in English from The New Press), always proves himself to be a master of the craft that seems to be enhanced by the sharp clarity brought by translator Linda Coverdale.

The pieces in The Queen’s Caprice are connected by history. That’s not to say that they’re works of historical fiction (although a couple of them come close). For the most part, Echenoz is more interested in showing how we respond to history rather than just recounting it. For example, in “Civil Engineering,” the longest piece in this book, we follow a former civil engineer named Gluck as he travels the world to write about famous bridges. The problem is that he’s only focused on the bridges themselves and not the locations they’re found in.

For the rest of the review, go here.


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