30 April 2015

Book Review: G. by John Berger

I suppose I landed myself an experimental novel. I was browsing a used bookstore once and came across this novel. The description was interesting and therefore I picked it up. It is a novel about a Don Juan in Europe during World War I, and so I thought it would be an interesting read. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

First, let me provide a synopsis of this work. This novel is a novel about the character whose name is G., who is born from an Italian father, who is a businessman from Livorno; and an English mother, whose name is Laura. His father is called Umberto. Laura is Umberto's mistress, and they are happy together, until Laura learns that she is pregnant. From that time on, Laura gets estranged from Umberto, and therefore Umberto doesn't spend plenty of time with his son.

G. grows up, slowly, and the book narrates his various amorous affairs, all in the context of actual historical events. That is the positive side of this book. It is evident that the book is well-researched, with the historical events quite portrayed accurately. As G. grows up, various events take place in the world stage, from the Milanese worker's revolt, to the Boer War, to the first successful airplane crossing of the Alps. In all of these historical events, G. is involved, and yes, he is seeking the hearts of women in all of these events.

What I don't understand is the purpose of the novel. It is highly experimental, and I don't see a very concrete plot in it. Yes, there is the main character, but aside from him, I don't see why this novel is here. And the ending is very abrupt as well. I don't understand why G. keeps the story moving. It felt like this novel was quite opaque, and I had to have plenty of patience to push through. It felt like the story was being narrated behind so many layers of shade and disguises, that I didn't really enjoy it that much. As much as the title refers to the main character, it felt more like this novel was not a novel, but instead just a collection of a series of historical narratives, and it happens that G. is in the midst of them.

Overall I have to say that I didn't enjoy this novel that much. I didn't hate it, I just didn't fancy it too much. Maybe it was too experimental for my taste. And therefore I only give this 3 out of 5 stars. Only read this book if you have quite a lot of patience.

See my other book reviews here.

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