Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

The SojournThe Sojourn by Andrew Krivak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The rhythm of Andrew Krivak's writing forces his readers to slow down. The Sojourn pulled me in and kept me turning the pages because its subject matter and setting are fascinating. But I had to work to read it. Here's an example of a typical sentence pulled from about halfway through the novel:

But among the Austrian and German troops we fell in with that autumn in Kobarid, we felt the camaraderie of skill and demeanor, and so began to believe again in the possibility of victory in that war, after having lost so many battles, a victory we would soon find out, that was being mapped out in the mountains above the plateau the generals had conceded to their enemy in order to save themselves and their imperial army.

I might enjoy sentences such as this if they were used in moderation, but Krivak rarely breaks his rhythm with shorter phrases.

The novel follows the life of Jozef Vinich, who was born in Colorado but raised in Austria-Hungry. He and his adopted brother, learn to shoot with great skill because they are hunters from an early age. When World War 1 begins, their skills as sharpshooters are highly valued. The scenes from the battles and from long marches in harsh environments bring a very clear picture of a struggle to survive, but Krivak also shows the guilt surviving can bring.

I said that I had ceased to think of life or death because it seemed that I was destined to serve out the sentence of one for having delivered so well the sentence of the other, and that I saw the dead every night before I went to sleep as though they were still alive and standing before me.

The Sojourn is not a book to curl up with on a rainy day. But for readers who enjoy history and who like to work at what they read, it's a good one.

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