Wednesday, September 12, 2012

L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker

While reading this book, I had to keep in mind that it was fiction. You see, L: A Novel History is written in the exact same style as a biography - complete with appendixes.

L purports to show the dangers of a charismatic individual on a nation. Much like, Hitler, Stalin etc (the book also gives these men as examples). In a re-imagining of history, Britain, in a bid for, I don't know, to be contrary I suppose, managed to achieve a despotic government.

And at the center of it is L. A charismatic and unknowable character. Since this is written in the style of a biography, it's impossible to have an emotional connection with L. The distancing effect means that to me, this is nothing more than a creative imagining of what history could have been.

But what the book excels at is to show how the public can be so easily manipulated. The events in the book are very very believable, and it's easy to see how sleight of hand can be used to create distrust and violence among people.

The biggest thing about this book is it's narrative form. The fact that it reads like a biography is it's greatest strength and weakness.

It's the book's greatest strength because it's so interesting. Plus, it prevents us from sympathising with L too much. In addition, it allows the author to talk events not necessarily known by L or his cronies (As seen when the state of society is talked about). A lot of events and people which might be left out in a conventional narrative form could be included here. And since one of the aims of the book is to show how a charismatic leader could rise to power, using the form of a biography was a very smart move.

But, because it's a biography, the language tends to be rather formal, much like reporting. What this meant is that I tended to get bored with it. I suspect that some places where I felt bored was because I was tired of the style of writing. The events were definitely interesting, but the factual reporting style got a bit tiring after a while.

Still, it's an interesting book, and I think a lot of people will enjoy it. But if you cannot stand non-fiction books, I don't recommend it.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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