Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski

A harrowing, rather fantastical look at World War II in Europe, Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird is a novel I will not soon forget. To be honest, it may be one of the most overtly and viscerally violent books I have read, with deaths happening on almost every page, and described in a detached yet gruesome fashion. Whether it is made up or not, as some critics of Kosinki’s claim, the power of this singular work cannot be denied, even with its flaws. While it deals with World War II, it is unlike any other book you might have read about that overly talked about subject. It has less in common with a book like Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, and more so with the work of Clive Barker, with this novel being like a lost, extended story from one of his Books of Blood. The novel focuses on an unnamed narrator how, to avoid the violence of the conflict, is shipped, by his parents, to a far off village to live with his relatives. But that is just the beginning of his violent journey to the depths of human evil. Once on his own, he travels from village to village, experiencing all kinds of torment that are hard to imagine, but somehow he survives all these things, and is forced to grow into stronger person. If there is one major flaw in this book, it’s how repetitive the violence can get. The reader almost becomes desensitized by the violence due to the detached narrator, who describes things almost as if they are outside of him. But the scenes that do hit their mark, like the eye-gouging scene and the rape with the wine bottle, are extremely effective, and rival the skinning scene in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This is not a book for the squeamish, but it is one that will leave you shaken, and possibly changed.

Rating: 4/5

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