Monday, February 4, 2008

easily overlooked flaws

Gardens of Water by Alan Drew
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: A-Z (author)
Review: Sometimes, obvious flaws in things like characterization can be overlooked because of how well the book is written overall. Such is the case here. It wasn't until I was nearly at the end of the book, when things were clearly winding down, that I realized that most of the major characters had not been fully developed, nor were their motivations always totally clear.

But perhaps in this book the individual characters were stand-ins for the eternal conflicts of East vs. West and one generation against another. Both are realistically drawn as Irem struggles with herself against the traditions with which she's been raised, but is unable to completely break away from them. Her mother struggles to reconcile the choices she’s made, and her desire to raise her daughter in the same way she was raised, with the evident changes in the world around her and the greater opportunities Irem could take advantage of. Sinan, Irem’s father, struggles to support his family and to maintain the religious traditions that are important to him. None of the characters ever fully resolves their struggles, which is perhaps very realistic, although in some cases their own actions or events outside their control inadvertently lead to a resolution.

Drew portrays these struggles very well. Indeed, in some places he demonstrates a rare gift for the ability to paint a scene. One scene in particular that deserves special mention is the scene where Sinan takes his son to visit the holiest mosque in Istanbul. There, while trying to teach his son how to pray, Sinan must deal with the distraction of Western tourists who are touring the mosque. This scene is so vividly rendered that the reader can’t escape the implications of the potential dangers to Sinan’s faith and way of life inherent in the encroachment of Westerners.

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