Monday, February 13, 2012

2012 BOTY: Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie Apparently, my choices in books are not as good as they were last year. I admit though...this one was a slight fluke. I actually didn't mean to read it. I was searching through my Nook, trying to decide on a book after The Night Circusand my fat finger opened this one instead of scrolling down the page. I went with it. I shouldn't have. But, to give it some credit, I didn't give up on it like I did poor Bill Bryson. To take that credit away...maybe I should have.

Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie is a historical fiction novel set in China. It is the story through multiple eras of a torn sutra written by Buddha. The narrator of the book is telling of its perceived importance via information she learned from Tumchooq, a greengrocer in the streets of Peking. Tumchooq becomes obsessed with locating the missing half of the text, written on a piece of silk.

Honestly, blegh. First of's a bad sign when you're nearly half way through the book before you realize that the narrator is a woman. I assumed it was a man from the beginning. I don't know if this mistake was due to some oversight on my part or the writing, but I only realized it after she began to describe the relationship that developed between herself and Tumchooq.

The story also frequently shifts time frames and narrators without much explanation. I frequently found myself lost and had to really focus to keep things straight. This was not a leisurely read. I had to work way too hard for it.

Ultimately, I ended up feeling..."that's it?" The book just ended. As far as I'm concerned, the resolution was lackluster and disappointing. I invested way too much time in this book to feel like the author just got sick of writing and thought, "hmm...I think I'll just wrap it up here." A very sad state of affairs.

Because I actually finished the book, I figure that it has to rate above a 1. But let me tell you that it doesn't deserve much more. So...ultimately I rated Once on a Moonless Night with 2 out of 5 stars.


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