Monday, May 21, 2007

A review of "The Janissary Tree: A Novel"

by Jason Goodwin

This book started out promisingly. It’s abundantly clear that the author has a profound knowledge of Turkish history and culture and a light comic touch when it comes to characterization. Unfortunately, the plot, although interesting enough at first, was hampered by the choice (and I don’t know if it was authorial or editorial) of using very short chapters that always ended with a dramatic cliffhanger, but were followed by a new chapter that involved different settings and characters. A little of this is usually alright, but used with such consistency here it had the effect of confusing me and making me forget where the action had left off once returned to a scene. It reminded me of reading the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which was first serialized in a magazine before being published in book form. There Collins had to use cliffhangers so readers would buy the next issue. Here, the technique just made me feel manipulated. With with 80 pages to go, I realized that I really didn’t care whodunnit or why, which abruptly put an end to this visit to Istanbul.

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