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Thanks, you too!
Thank you very much for an enjoyable discussion! Much appreciated.
Hopefully see you next month for the discussion of WISE CHILDREN. 🙂
Did you have anything else you wanted to discuss, Kendra?
I must admit I’ve become slightly obsessed with trying to ‘figure out’ this book since reading it, but I don’t want to bore you with too many of my half-formed thoughts and ramblings. 🙂
Yes, there’s certainly an element of Tracker’s narration style that is intended to shock—especially where it is clear that he is talking to the ‘inquisitor’ of the opening narrative frame.
Even though the unflinching descriptions of violence were very difficult to read, I appreciate that the author didn’t let the violence become ‘normalised’, or let the reader skim over it without confronting its brutality (if that makes sense). In that sense, it could also tie in with Tracker’s traumatic past and his struggle to conform to the version of masculinity that society expects of him.
Like you noted earlier, some of it does feel quite distant from Tracker—I think this comes from the extra narrative ‘layer’, i.e. we are being told a story; we’re not experiencing it at the same time as Tracker. The prose did a good job of letting the reader interpret Tracker’s actions/emotions for themselves, although this also contributes to the distance between Tracker and the reader because it takes a while to find a ‘way in’ to his emotions.
My opinion went back and forth about the long stretches of dialogue—sometimes I found them immersive, other times the conversations felt overly ‘constructed’, although perhaps this is another side effect of the whole storytelling construct. What did you think?
Yes, I can certainly do that! It won the Booker Prize in the UK a few years ago, so I’m looking forward to getting into it.
Yes, me too. Then again, that probably reflects Tracker’s attitude towards the character. If I remember rightly, his name is never revealed—Tracker just knows him as ‘boy’ the whole way through.
Yes, there were loads! I was often grateful for the character list at the start of the book. I think that probably stems from the abundance of worldbuilding and the inclusion of lots of African folklore and myth.
It would certainly be possible to trim the book down to a shorter length, but I’m wondering if something of the ‘layering’ of stories and the richness of the worldbuilding would be lost, in that case. I’ll be curious to see how long the other two parts of the trilogy end up being. (I have actually just started reading Marlon James’s ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ as a comparison of sorts—and it’s just as long as BLRW, if not longer!).
I do think it would be interesting to see how the book would work if the story were framed differently. At the moment, the focus (from the very first line, even), seems to be on the search for the mysterious ‘boy’—so the reader is led to expect a fairly straightforward ‘quest’ plot. Perhaps it is the subversion of this that is frustrating and led to me initially thinking that the first half was largely tangential. If the story were framed so that it was clear from the start that it’s more character-focused and centred on the changing relationship between Tracker and the Leopard (which I think is fair to say is the core of the novel, especially taking into account the title!), perhaps that would help to alter reader expectations a little.
In terms of plot progression, it felt very static at the beginning, and some of the stories that Tracker tells seemed quite circular. But at the same time, the ‘storytelling’ narration style allowed for the jumping back and forth through the chronology and so I felt like hints were used to create some suspense for the reader (e.g. about what happened to Tracker’s eye). In some cases, the suspense may have been held out too long to keep the reader’s interest, though. What did you think?
Yes, it does make it difficult to connect to a character when they are emotionally closed off. Tracker does grow and change throughout the story, which probably contributed to me enjoying the second half more, I think.
I actually really enjoyed the humour throughout the book, especially as I got to know the characters better. Did you get to the part where the Buffalo was introduced, Kendra? An absolutely charming character, who provided some much-needed light relief in contrast to some of the very violent and disturbing scenes.
I was reading an interview with Marlon James in which he said that he spent a very long time filling up more and more notebooks with worldbuilding and character details, and he struggled to actually find a story to tell within that—which you could say is reflected in how the book ended up!
Also, if you didn’t already know, this is the first book in a planned trilogy—the other two will tell the same events through a different character lens, and the reader will have to decide which version to believe. A big project for both the writer and the reader!
Yes, I think you’re right that there’s a deliberate distance between Tracker and the reader. I think this is in part because there’s an ongoing theme about storytelling and truth/objectivity—for example, in the two versions of the story Tracker tells about killing and/or severely injuring his father. I also think this could be related to trauma and how Tracker deals with the trauma in his past, by distancing himself from it through storytelling.
Ok—thanks for popping by, Joan! Hopefully see you next month.