• jon

    Posted 1212 days ago

  • I enjoy Lee's writing. Her narrators feel like their are reciting a poem or an elaborate history of a foreign land. I had also read her story, The Children, which was published in The New Yorker in 2019 and included in The Best American Short Stories 2020 anthology. Even though I do enjoy her writing, I think it just misses something.

    It can sometimes feel overly wordy, but in other moments the wordiness feels perfect. Take for example:

    His convalescence was astutely extended by his wife, who was pleased to have her elderly husband out of the infectious atmosphere of whores and decayed colonial dreams that hung like a fever mist over the island of Naratrany.

    That is a very, very wordy sentence. It flows very nicely, but sometimes there are too many of these too close to each other, making it a kind of odd read. But it aslo does allow her to convey the deep emotions of her characters.

    In all his years in Madagascar, he had stayed away from affairs with Malagasy women, but, in Noelline’s plaintive voice, in the touch of her cool, slightly rough skin, even in her greed, he encountered something simple, ancient, and essential that made his research into history and custom seem as unreal as a stage set.

    I imagined the two old men very easily, reminded of the clothes in old movies or photographs during the colonization of Africa. And this setting is also weird for me; we are simultaneously supposed to admire these men for their eccentric lives and also question their motives as colonizers in a place that was taken advantage of. Lee mentions this:

    At the same time, political troubles begin in the capital of Madagascar, as supporters of a popular young usurper battle the President’s followers in the highland streets, torching stores and government buildings, causing unrest even on the far island of Naratrany. And the tourists take off like a flock of startled gulls.

    Overall, I'm just not sure what to think of this story. I like it, but I also find it somewhat empty. A good read though.