Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (20/81)

Category: Around the World
Country: Dominican Republic

The eponymous character of this novel is an overweight science fiction-obsessed geek, who falls in love too deeply. His story is told by his older sister’s sometime boyfriend, but although his name is in the title, this book is much more than Oscar’s story. It also tells the story of his mother, his sister and grandfather, and of the lasting effect of Trujillo’s tyrannical reign over the Dominican Republic.

As a tale of doomed love and dictatorship, there are some pretty bleak things in this book, but it is written with a such a refreshing voice that it raises it above a chronicle of misery. The narrative is peppered with slang, Spanish and references to science fiction, none of which I was particularly familiar with, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this.

Equally I knew nothing about the Dominican Republic before reading this, but extensive footnotes explaining the history and key figures of the country provided an introduction for uninformed. The footnotes were not dry academic references, but were written in the same familiar style as the main text, which made it easy to read them along with the story.

If it isn’t already obvious, I loved this book and it was a great book for the Around the World category as the Dominican Republic was central to it.

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