Originally, I wasn't going to read this book. When I first heard of this book, it didn't push my buttons. It didn't get me excited. But then the UK publishers, Atom, asked if I would be involved in a blog tour for this book. I said yes, but knew that if I wanted to take part, I would have to read and review the book. I didn't want to agree to something and go "Read this!" if I haven't read it nor liked it. So, that's how I got my hands on a copy.
But isn't that what book reviewers/bloggers do? Read books that are outside they comfort-zone?
Anyway, the story. Nora Kane joins a translation project to unravel a 700 year old book along with other clasicists. So, imagine her outrage when she was given the "girly" task to translate the letters of the author's daughter, Elizabeth Weston. Expect, the more she translates Elizabeth's letters, the more Nora becomes fascinated with her life. And with her busy friend Chris dating Adriane and her budding relationship with Max, Nora has her life under control.
Until Nora finds Chris murdered. Until Nora discovers Adriabe has appeared to have lost her mind. Until Nora discovered Max has vanished into thin air, making him the Police prime suspect in Chris's murder.
But Max couldn't have done it. Could he? Slowly, Nora tries to make sense of what has happened and it seems that the reasons - and the answers - she seek are in Elizabeth Weston's letters...
Now, this book has been described as "The Secret History by Donna Tartt or The Lessons by Naomi Alderman meets The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown". So, already, there's a high standard. So, will it live to the hype that surrounds this book?
Yes, it does. I was surprised on how quickly I fell into this book and this strange world of Latin and universities and then, suddenly, how it switches to murder, Prague, secret societies and the Lumen Dei (you have to read the book to find out what that is). And it's also surprising how smart this book is. There were times I read this that I feared that the book would come across "too smart" and, I think, this only happened once or twice with me, but it was over very little things.
Don't get me wrong. This book is good! But it's flawed too. Some of you guys won't like it as it's slow going. It took over 100 pages (in my copy) for something to happen and it kinda does this all the way through the book until the end where everything falls into place. And there were several occasions that I felt that it went a bit flat. Sometimes it was characters, other times it was dialogue but it always picked itself up within a few paragraphs (I says this as my copy was a draft so this might be changed in the real version).
This is a very smart read, even when it goes into the realms of secret societies. I'm just fascinated on how much research the author, Robin Wasserman, did as (according to her Acknowledgements and Afterword) she talks about Elizabeth Weston, Edward Kelley, Don Giulio & Rabbi Judah Loew Ben Bezalel and the Voynich Manuscript and explains that they were real and briefly explains them to us.
While this book won't be everyone's cup of tea, but this is one smart read to start 2012 and I will be very intrigued over Robin Wasserman write next...