Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"A Partisan's Daughter" by Louis DeBernier (audio)

OK, I know I should start to write these things down. But I recently read a tip from a fellow blogger that the audio to this book was a must-listen. It must have been Beth or Carrie, I'm thinking. Anyway, I had finished my last audio, the second in the Outlander series, and flew to the library with my TBR list in hand to find something quickly, to fill in the time until my next library requests were delivered to my home. This is what I walked out with. I had no idea what to expect.

It is sometime in the 1970's, and we are introduced to one of the book's two narrators, a 40-year-old pharmaceutical salesman, named Chris, who is pondering whether he is the type of guy to pick up a prostitute. He's a bitter, depressed guy, alienated by his wife, his daughter, and everything that is modern and hip. He considers himself "old" and unworthy of anyone's attention. (I will thank him very much, but 40 isn't old!!) He has a marvelous, dry sense of humor that shines through on the audio, however. He calls his wife "the great white loaf". As in a loaf of bread, laying on the couch, watching TV and not moving. He comes up with some killer musings on life such as:

"Middle age makes you dignified, and if it doesn't, then you're a sad case."


"The only thing more pitiful than a middle-aged punk is a white Rastafarian. I met one of those once, and he was lonelier than I was."

He sees a beautiful woman standing streetside, and impulsively stops to solicit her services (despite the fact that he is NOT the type to do such a thing), but finds that while she used to be "Bad Girl", she is one no longer. Humiliated, he still drives her home. He cannot get this girl, Roza, out of his head, so he stops by her dilapidated apartment to see her a few days later.

They begin an interesting and seemingly dysfunctional relationship, in which he regularly stops by to visit her, and she tells him stories of her life. It is a relationship where he lusts after her, to the point where he can't sleep, but is too shy to ask her to sleep with him. He is drawn to her outrageous stories, to balance his life of monotony and boredom. She is lonely, and seems to up the ante with each story, making them more and more insane, just to keep his attention and keep him coming back. For example, she tells how she lost her virginity to her father (at her initiation), had a lesbian relationship with a childhood friend, was kidnapped and held prisoner by a rapist/sadist group of men, and was a hooker to make ends meet. Despite Chris and Roza's hidden agendas, they begin to depend on each other for companionship. The story ends in a contemplative mood, almost a bit sad, with just a little bit of closure.

The story is written as a back-and-forth narrative, between the two characters. Chris tells us about the things Roza says, and his reaction to them. Roza tells us her thoughts on Chris's reactions to her stories. This does not create a problem - the transition is seamless and smooth. The voices of Chris and Roza are clever, witty and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I have to share with you one of Roza's tirades, which really had me going. She was explaining to Chris why she was living in such a dung heap of an apartment:

"I am here because I made f**k ups. Everything turns to shit. You know, I pick up a potato, and by the time it gets to my mouth, it turns to shit, with horse hair in it. I got used to shit and horse hair in my teeth, no B.S. It's OK now, though. No more shit for Roza."

I could not stop listening to this book. It is relatively short, 5 discs, and I got through it in a couple of days. The stories are highly entertaining; the personalities of the characters are well-defined, colorful and beautifully flawed. I was mostly intrigued with one question throughout the entire I believe anything that Roza says? In all the reviews I've read on this book, I've never really seen this addressed. I personally feel she is an insecure wack-job, even though I liked her wit and spunk. I guess I've known enough people in real life that will lie about anything to get attention, that I was suspicious from the beginning. And if all of her stories were lies, then the relationship was built on a house of cards. Perhaps because I was listening to the story on audio, the subtle hints of misrepresentation were more obvious. If anyone out there has read this book, I would love your insights.


Beth F said...

Must have been Carrie! I haven't heard of this one. But now you'll see it on tomorrow's discovery post!

Unknown said...

I can see why this would make a good audio book. I loved the film of Captain Corellis Mandolin, but think I would have found the book a bit slow.A well voiced audio book, would probably have been good too though.

I'll keep an eye out for this one - I'm running out of audio books fast!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Beth - I could have swore it was on your Weekly Discoveries post! It is the kind of thing you would have included, as you are one my avid audio blogger buddies. Well, whoever recommended it, I thank them!

Jackie - Despite the fact that the book is in the form of a narrative, it goes so fast. It's only 5 discs! After the Outlander ones, this was a couple days of walking and cleaning the house, and it was done! The audios do go fast!

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like a great book--so much going on! And I really like books with narratives that go back and forth between characters like you described. I will have to add it to my wish list.