"This strangest of islands, I thought as I looked out to the sea, this island that turned in on itself, and from which water had been banished. The shore was carapace, permeable only at certain selected points. Where in this riverine city could one fully sense a riverbank? The water was a kind of embarrassing secret, the unloved daughter, neglected, while the parks were doted on, fussed over and overused."
I loved this debut novel by Teju Cole. It is written with an original voice and is built around the curious yet sometimes dubious interactions with everyday people that the main character encounters. There is a reason reality television is so popular, we as a culture are fascinated with people of all types and colors and sizes interacting with each other in an unexpected way that produces an organic sense of drama. This book follows Julius through the streets of New York and Brussels plotting out his encounters with the people around him. These streets take on a life of their own and force Julius to look deep into himself as he strives to become a more complete human.
Besides loving this book for its simplicity, it is masterfully written. If you are telling a story without there being a true story, you had better excel at capturing your audience with your ability to write. Teju Cole is a brilliant author and this book really feels like you are gazing a painting rather than filing through a stack of card stock. It is intelligent and historical. Radiant yet brooding. Soulful and simplistic. Floating through the streets of a new city is something I love to do and I have been to both NYC and Brussels. Cole captures the quintessence of both and brings them alive in his pages. This book is a vacation from most of what sits on the shelves of bookstores today and is something you want to check out. I'll be looking forward to his next trip.