Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Eli is a teenager who adores his uncle, Poxl West, who is not really a relative but is more of a grandfather figure to Eli.  When Poxl writes a memoir of his experiences during WWII, Eli is miffed that he never receives his signed copy, but still he reads the book several times and uses it as a basis for school assignments.  This novel contains the entire text of Poxl’s memoir, and this book-within-a-book is the real meat of this novel.  Poxl, a Jew, flees Czechoslovakia for the Netherlands as a young man, at the behest of his father, but Poxl’s real impetus is the shock of seeing his mother with her lover.  Virtually the same thing happens in the Netherlands, where he escapes to England after seeing his prostitute girlfriend Francoise with another man.  He occupies himself in London as a civilian rescuer during the blitz but never gives up on his dream to become an RAF pilot.  Except for the twist near the end, which did not seem all that original to me, this novel didn’t really turn me on that much.  The twist does justify the book-within-a-book structure, though, and creates an unfortunate dilemma for Eli, while shedding more light on Poxl than even his own memoir does.  As for the memoir itself, Poxl’s incessant hand-wringing over his abandonment of Francoise becomes tiresome after a while, although I thought his abrupt departure from Czechoslovakia was much more lamentable.  Other characters seem to disappear almost as fast as they are introduced, and the turbulent times are certainly responsible for some of this.  Still, I never established any sort of bond with any of the characters, even though they weren’t despicable or villainous.  I would have liked to have felt more invested in either Eli’s or Poxl’s story.

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