Tuesday, 31 December 2013
#CBR5 Book 153. "The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards" by Kristopher Jansma
Rating: 4 stars
This is such a very difficult book to review, as to give away too much of the plot, or say too much about the characters would ruin the reading experience of those yet to read it.
Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous author about the art of writing, the art of creating fiction or just lying. "The truth is beautiful. Without doubt; and so are lies." is the first one. In the first section of the book: "What was lost", our unnamed narrator starts telling us about his childhood, waiting in Terminal B of an unnamed airport for his flight attendant mother to come back from wherever she'd gone to next. We're told how the twenty-two page adventure story he wrote (with illustrations) was lost when the man who ran the watch repair suddenly collapsed, and the book was thrown away. He tells us about going to a debutante ball because the brother of the girl he fancied was injured on a golf course shortly before, about going to college and starting to write in earnest, striking up a friendship and life long rivalry with the mysterious and charismatic Julian. At college he also meets the glamorous Evelyn, a promising actress, who may or may not be the love of his life.
In "What was found", we may finally have discovered the name of our narrator, or have we? He's had a disastrous falling out with his two closest friends, and is now travelling the globe, making a living from spinning clever and believable lies in one way or another. This section really spans the globe, set in parts in America, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Iceland and a wealth of other locations and continues to explore the nature of truth, lies and the art of storytelling. Can we trust our narrator, or is he always going to be unreliable? Is he still "telling us the truth but slant" as he learned in college? Does it actually matter?
This book first came to my attention when Joanna Robinson, one of the staff writers on Pajiba raved about it, saying it was one of the best books she'd read all year. That made me notice it in a number of other places, and other Cannonballers and online reviewers have rated it very highly as well. It made it a natural choice for "a book everyone but you has read" in my Book Bingo challenge, and it also worked nicely in my A to Z challenge. I read it pretty much in one sitting, while on the plane back from Marrakesh after Christmas. It was one of the only things that took my mind off the churning nausea raging in my belly, and for that I am very grateful. I may not have loved it as much as Joanna, but I can highly recommend this clever book to anyone who likes a more unusual read exploring the joys of fiction.