Vita Nostra Q6: Structure and writing


What did people think of the writing in the book? Was it vivid, engaging, atmospheric? Were you able to suspend your disbelief? (And bear in mind this is a work in translation.)

What about the structure? The book is divided into three parts, but there are no chapters within that. Did the lack of structure help you get drawn into the book or were you disoriented by the ceaseless barrage of events?


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    The writing was appropriate for what I believe to be its primary target audience, viz teenagers or maybe early 20s. As such, the (to my much older eyes) lack of literary structure was not a hang-up, and I was happy to take it on its own terms. Engaging - certainly... I whizzed through much of it and enjoyed doing so. Is it a book I would cheerfully reread lots of times? Probably not, as after the first time the lack of structure would most likely start to annoy me.

    So far as I recall, the three parts were pretty much the three academic years, so made sense as broad divisions. I would have liked some subdivisions within this, if only to give me a sensible point to stop reading in the evenings! But I wasn't put off by this lack of structure, and there is a mimetic sense in which an academic year feels like that - you draw breath at the end, and not so much in the thick of it.

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    I listened to the audio, so the lack of chapters was quite lost on me. It's not always easy to tell when you enter a new chapter in an audio book. The reader only reads the exact text. So if there's a chapter break, but no chapter title, you don't really get an indication of the change. Where chapters are numbered, you often just get a cursory "Three" before the reader launches into the prose, again. Those visual cues - like starting on a new page and leaving big white spaces - just don't get translated. So this aspect was lost on me.

    As to the writing, I thought it was competent and enjoyable enough, but unremarkable (in the sense that I didn't feel moved to mark any passages, as I might with Conrad or Melville or Kay). I think the dialogue was quite good and felt natural.

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