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review 2018-02-23 20:40
Broken April by Ismail Kadare
Broken April - Ismail Kadaré

Broken April is an almost meditative look at a blood feud that is strictly adhered to by those in the Albanian mountains. While it’s about a seemingly inhuman way to settle disputes (bloodshed), it is told in an entirely human way.

 

Successive generations had been accustomed to the feuds from their cradles, and so, not being able to conceive of life without them, it never entered their minds to try to free themselves from their destined end.

 

There are two stories that intersect. One is about Gjorg, a young man who has just had to commit a killing, as set out by the terms of the Kanun (a guide to adhering to the code). After a 30 day period from the time of the killing, he himself will be murdered.

 

Whatever words of wisdom might be uttered by the famous interpreters, the last word concerning death-so says the Kanun-belongs to the avenger of blood.

 

His story runs alongside that of Bastian and Diana, a couple who have recently married and have decided (strangely) to honeymoon in the Albanian mountain region in order to learn more about this tradition, which dates back centuries. Bastian is a writer and very interested in Albanian culture, so he's the one who coordinated the trip. As they're travelling through the mountain region Diana and Gjorg cross paths. Although they don’t speak to one another, an inextricable bond is formed. They both think about each other often and in this way form a connection, if not in the literal sense.

 

A large focus was the principles that guide life, as set out by the Kanun and the rules surrounding the blood debts passed down through generations. This was all interesting, if not a little strange. It was the complexities of the characters instead, that was my main area of enjoyment. While I didn’t feel particularly invested in any of them, I did feel compassion and understanding for Gjorg’s plight. He was bound by the rules of the blood feud and had to commit a murder, even though his conscience dictated otherwise.

 

Broken April was very short and would have benefited from more exposition. It’s a very hard book to categorise because while I enjoyed some elements, others I didn’t. I liked the sparse style and glimpse into a very strange way of life. The ending, though, could have been more developed and the characters delved into further. I’m very interested to see what the other at my book group thought.

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text 2018-02-21 21:33
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Broken April - Ismail Kadaré

Well, that was strange, but in a good way. I must say, though, I'm glad to be through with books I've had to read. Now I can start something that's all me and I can't wait.

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review 2018-02-18 06:41
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin

I knew from the heartbreak that came in the first two books in this series that I should expect this one to be similar. Honestly, though, I think this one was easier. It's hard to top the extreme amount of pain and loss that happened in book one.

 

Hoa finally really grew on me in this book. I was fascinated to read about his history, seeing him fleshed out. The book, really the entire series, deals so heavily with issues of slavery and prejudice, and it does not pull punches, ever.

 

This final book also had a theme of moving forward after devastating loss, which was really poignant.

 

I do think it was clear from the end of the previous book where Essun's story was going to end, given the style of narration. But even realizing that, the journey was not nearly so easy to predict, and I really fell in love the these characters. None quite as much as Alabaster, though.

 

This series is not easy to read, because it's so heavy, emotionally. I can't recommend it to everyone. But if you enjoy fantasy and want something different, that really delves into the ugly parts of humanity, and the ways that people survive horrific adversity, you should not pass this up.

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text 2018-02-17 16:31
Reading progress update: I've read 60%.
Broken April - Ismail Kadaré

Finally getting back to this after being away and I can't wait to see how the two stories intersect. This has been a great read about a blood code observed by a region of people in Albania. I love my new book club, they pick great books, such as this one.

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review 2018-02-16 21:19
Review: Broken April
Broken April - Ismail Kadaré

Last year, I made a goal of “reading around the world,” an effort to read at least one book from every country. I'm not working down the list regionally or alphabetically. I'm not oversaturating my reading list all at once with these titles. I'm just making a conscious effort to explore the world through books as I'm able.

Broken April is perhaps the most eye-opening view of a world I knew nothing about. Set in mountains of Albania, Broken April is the story of a man bound to an extremely strict set of rules called the Kanun. The Kanun is a “code of conduct” that focuses on honor and hospitality, dictating the everyday actions of a person. It makes the American west of the 1800s seem very tame, the Levitical law lenient. Once one has become ensnared by the rules of the Kanun, there is no escape.

Initially, I imagined that these rules were a product of the author's imagination. If nothing else, they had to have been exaggerated. No group of people would willingly live under such rigorous regulations century upon century. Sadly, they're all true. Though I hate to knock on the beliefs and cultures of another group, these rules are ridiculous and very dangerous. It's a wonder that those who subscribe to the Kanun as a rule for life have not gone extinct by now.

As far as a novel goes, Broken April is a bit uneven. When the story focuses on Gjorg, it is riveting and breathtaking. I felt his anxiety. He is a marked man and though the reader must know it's impossible for him to escape, you hope there is a way. Also, I was enraptured with Diana, a newlywed who does not live under the Kanun, but who is similarly held captive by the authority of her husband. But the novel spends far too much time on the boring, ridiculous Bessian and on characters such as Mark, who merely provided a different visual perspective. Without these interruptions, I likely would've made my way through this novel in very little time; unfortunately, I felt too much of what Diana must've felt: God, I wish Bessian would just shut up.

There is a haunting atmosphere to Broken April, especially as we follow Gjorg around. It reminds me of John Steinbeck's time in Mexico. There is a similarity in theme and setting to both “Flight” and The Pearl, though there is a feeling of timelessness in Broken April. It is this timelessness, this sense that these rules will continue until everyone is finally dead, that give this novel its most grievous quality.

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