I really did not like this book.
Here is a quote, describing one of the two protagonists:
“He made such a faint presence. It was like being in the room with a feather.”
I am in a room with a feather right now. I forgot about it completely, until I saw it while sitting in my chair, thinking of other things. Then I thought, “I should throw this away. Are feathers compostable?”
The book is full of sentences like this. The most objectionable one is probably, “a calm peaceful place, insulated by fields, enwombed by hedges.” Enwombed. It makes you wonder if the author, Anthony Doerr, has ever had sex with a woman.
Doerr cannot be accused of possessing a tin ear. I would describe his voice as, “Hemingway on molly.” It’s not bad, and sometimes it gets pretty good, but the effect of the relentless simple, everyday words, and endless lists of subclauses crosses from rhythmic to soporific. It strikes me as lazy, but trying too hard.
I’d insult the plot too, but there isn’t one.
At some level, Doerr is a hack. A successful hack, a sensitive hack even, but nevertheless, proof that China Mieville, that giant of scifi and fantasy, was right when he called literary fiction a genre like any other.