Last year a read a book called Fruit. It was a very unique story about a 13 year old boy from Sarnia who is gay, obsessed with Brooke Sheilds, and his nipples talk to him. I know this sounds really strange but it was a fantastic book. It kept you on your toes, you really felt for this poor boy and how hard it was for him to not be like everyone else.
Anyways, asside from the interesting title, I purchased this book because it was the 2009 CBC Canada Reads Selection. So when the 2010 CBC choice came out, Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, I was constantly passing it on the shelves, wondering if I should give it a chance as I did Fruit.
Now I did purchase this book, read it cover to cover and I have to say I didn't like it at all. Basically its a long winded story about three people who's lives are connected through family and/or circumstances but don't necessarily meet. The story seemed to not have a point, and if it did then I missed it completely. I'm not the best reader of material that has symbolic meanings but most of the time I can at least catch a glimpse. I was very confused so I googled some reviews. Here is what I found:
(chapters.ca) Bahram Olfati:
"Nikolski, reminds me of those storys. Thestory covers ten years in the lives of three young characters. Over the course of the novel, which takes us across Canada, the three characters converge on Montreal, where their paths will cross again and again without ever allowing them to guess what really unites them. The novel also asks the reader questions on the importance of family identity, heritage, fish migration, and the nature of destiny and ambition. All these elements come together and their meaning is revealed gradually as the story unfolds. The novel will make you smile, and will remain with you for some time after you’ve finished the story."
(ummm what? The meaning of fish migration?)
"Nikolski" is full of magical symbols: a Nikolski compass forever pointing somewhere away from the true north, an old three-headed book that passed through many hands and mishaps eternally remaining as one unicum (a word I actually learned from reading "Nikolski": a book that is only a single known copy in the whole world), and garbage, as rejects that had come to carry their own weight in the world. Among all these symbols, we followed the life of two characters who live their days in parallel to each other without once realizing their own hidden connections. I was thrown by the trick that the author did to introduce a mysterious first person narrator in the first chapter and then hide him until a long while through the book. I was confused for the first three chapters in my feeble attempt to work out the convoluted (more or less because a lot of them were unrelated and unimportant to the story line later on) list of characters. Surprise. Nevertheless, "Nikolski" is an interesting read.
(okay, I see a little bit of relevance to some of the symbolism but only because of this teacher-like description. Sorry Nikolski I didn't want to dissect you that hard)
And with that I toss Nikolski two fish bones out of 5. And that is only because I like the cover design.