Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Prague by Arthur Phillips

Title: Prague
Author: Arthur Phillips
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Random House
Published: 2003
Pages: 400

Rating: 5 out of 10

This complex novel gives insight into the lives of five young Americans living in Budapest in the 1990's. I decided to read it due to a recent interest I have found with Americans living in Paris during that Golden Age of the 1920's. I had also heard Phillips compared to Kundera, one of my top three favorite authors.

Prague is intricate, with a great many things going on, contrasting and interesting characters, and a wide span and understanding of human nature in general. I appreciated its complexity, and I can certainly see how people could compare this work to Kundera's novels.

In a typically Kundera-esque chapter, the author veers off randomly from the story as a character walks by an old house. Here, the author leaves the character to continue walking by without us, and switches to the story of the house - detailing its inhabitants and their lives from the 1800's. Eventually, it vaguely tied back into the story, but it was a stretch. Kundera can do these things effortlessly, beautifully, but here, it felt forced and detached.
The writing was deep and philosophical, but not powerful enough to ever inspire any strong emotions toward any characters or events in this book.

Also, the setting of Budapest never really came across to the reader. The city was not absolutely essential to the story, as I felt it should have been.

I would be open to reading more of Arthur Phillips' work, as I can see that he is a talented, intellectual writer, but this one just never pulled me in.