Title: One Hundred Years of Vicissitude
Author: Andrez Bergen
Genre: Mystery, Historical-fiction
Expected Publication: Late 2012 by Perfect Edge Books
“First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed‐ up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departure from the mortal coil. I recall a gun was involved, pressed up against my skull, and a loud explosion followed.”
Thus begins our narrator in a purgatorial tour through twentieth-century Japanese history, with a ghostly geisha who has seen it all as a guide and a corrupt millionaire as her reluctant companion.
This book is unique. I think that’s where I need to start, it’s like nothing I have ever read before. I originally agreed to review this book per author request and I felt a little apprehensive about what would come because my knowledge of Japanese history is limited. However I found the book thrilling, exciting, tear jerking at moments and really bizarre! Bergen has a very unique style of writing and he adds a touch of humour into his work that I thoroughly appreciated. It was a rather dry, sarcastic tone which worked well with the tone of the book.
There is little to discern from the actual plot, but the story follows the footsteps of a man who meets a very strange Japanese woman, who crept into my heart along with him and I found myself flipping through the pages to find out where their journey would end. Ultimately this story has a sense of surrealism because it ventures into the realm beyond death and trips into ‘memories’ that is rather confounding at time and you may at times struggle to keep up. However we seem to develop into a full cycle and end on a rather poignant note and I’m glad to say it wasn’t the ending of pointlessness I almost expected from this type of book, but thoroughly rounded.
Bergen seems to enjoy discombobulating us by thrusting us into a new situation at every turn. The fact that he does this adds to the thrill of the story and is certainly enough to pique my interest.
The style of writing is unique, but it certainly adept and stretches my knowledge of vocabulary to its limits. To be truthful, I’d never heard of the word “vicissitude” before reading and the first thing I did was look through a dictionary before reading the book. For those of you who are unawares of the term like me, it means change or variation in the course of something or just change. It fits perfectly to the tale of the story and I find that this is ultimately one of those reads where the title actually integrates with the storyline.
Covers are certainly attractive to the eye and I think this one is interesting enough to make you stop and take a look. I don’t think until you begin to read do you understand the ultimate significance and along with the title, I loved the enlightenment I gained from that experience.
The narration is from the perspective of the man we meet with the most effective introduction of “First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man.” after the prologue. The first person narrative is not a reason to avoid this story because it’s the core strength of the story with the idea of ‘memories’ and falling into them, we wouldn’t quite gain the confusion and upheaval if we were to view the tale from a third person narrative.
The characters are realistic people with secrets and problems that uncover across the tale of the story. I found myself falling just a little bit in love with Wolram and his nature. He seemed to gain a redemption throughout the story from his troubled life that was inferred and I enjoyed that experience. Kohana was a deceptive character until the very end. She was not somebody you could judge to act in a particular way and was rather a strange woman, although by the end of the story I came to feel rather sad for her.
Throughout reading I came across some interesting references to other pieces of literature and film which Bergen placed in, but my personal favourites had to be from Lewis Carroll. They did particularly make me smile along with The Wizard of Oz references as two children’s classics.
At times this story did confuse me with certain directions and I struggled to find my way, but I don’t think this took too much away from the overall experience of the book. It was largely in the set-up in the beginning and some of the constant changes in Kohana’s life which were rather fast that led to confusion. Along with that, the books doesn’t seem to fall solidly into one particular genre because it covers a large range of things, from a tad science-fiction style to romance along with the history and mystery aspects. I enjoyed that aspect of the book whilst struggling to place an exact label on the genre, so definitely pick up this book for a little of everything!
Overall I feel like this book is a fantastic addition to the fiction genre and you’d be stupid to overlook it on the fact that it covers Japanese history. The real undercurrent of the story is the developing relation between Kohana and Wolram and the direction of their past life. Pick up this book when it comes out later this year because otherwise you’ll be missing out!
*I received this from the author Andrez Bergen in exchange for a review, prior to its release.*
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