Large Print Reviews
The American Brother
By Manfred Jurgensen
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - April 12, 2010
Manfred Jurgensen is a famed and award-winning Australian poet and novelist, whose other novels include, The Trembling Bridge and The Eyes of the Tiger. His new novel, The American Brother is part mystery, part thriller, and partly a coming of age tale about a college professor, Harry Greene, who was forced into early retirement very much against his will. As events unfold in this story about terrorism and the erosion of personal freedoms, Harry finds that life has more to offer him than just the moniker of Literary Historian and former university professor.
The story takes the reader from Australia to the United States and back again. This is not your typical genre fiction. Rather, it is more a work of modern literature. By modern I don't mean 'in the present'. Rather, I mean that Jurgensen attempts to show the world as it is. In this case, as seen through the eyes of Harry Greene and the people he comes into contact. The world that Harry perceives is his own perfect reality - whether or not it is the reality that you or I might perceive. By showing us Harry's world, Jurgensen is attempting to make the readers widen their horizons and to look at the world, and its injustices, in a new light. In this case, Jurgensen is highlighting the dichotomy between the war on terror and people's willingness to exchange personal liberties for what they perceive as safety.
While innovative and interesting to read, I did not like this book. I do not mean this as a slight on Jurgensen's writing abilities. He writes with a florid prose that paints mental images as it tells a rather engrossing, if somewhat jagged, tale of adventure, espionage, and one man's discovery of his true nature. What made me dislike this book was the ten page sex scene, a mere ten pages into the book, in which Harry hires a prostitute and they engage in an episode of graphic, masochistic bondage that I feel was totally out of place in this story. When I read a mystery or a thriller, I do not expect to be bombarded with a sex scene right off the bat. I want to get involved with the story, and if such action is a necessary component of the story, so be it, but it should not be used as a hook to attract the reader's attention and to try to get them to keep reading. The story should be able to grab the readers attention on its own merits, not via the use of sensationalism. If it cannot do so, it fails, as this book did for me. In many regards this book reminded me of some of Philip Roth's use of erotism to carry a story. Had the scene been incorporated into the book at a later stage or crafted in a less gratuitous manner, it might not have bothered me so much, but having the book begin with it tainted the entire story for me. While this turned me off the story, younger (the below 60s) readers may find this 'action' more acceptable than I did. It goes without saying, that this book contains adult material and may not be suitable for all readers!
The American Brother is available from Read How You Want, an on-demand publisher that makes books available in a variety of formats including Braille, DAISY, and five different large print formats. This range of formats makes this, and other books, available not only to visually impaired individuals, but also anyone with a reading or physical disability that makes reading standard print books difficult.
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- We, by Eugene Zamiatin.
We is the archetype of the modern dystopian novel. It is a story set well into the future, in a world where the state takes care of all the needs of its citizens, and in return the citizens live complacent and productive lives - that is until a group of dissidents begin to disrupt the state's stability.
- The Children of Men, By P. D. James
From the pen of P. D. James - not a mystery, but a Orwellian science fiction novel.
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