Review of A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Posted by in netgalley copy

I always find it harder to write reviews for good books than for poor ones (perhaps I should really say books I enjoyed versus books I disliked since no one has, of yet, made me the supreme arbiter of what constitutes a good book. Perhaps that email mistakenly got routed to my spam folder? Feel free to send it to me again universe.) A bad book I can pick apart and be sarcastic about. A good book, what is there to say except I have read a good book?

So I have read a good book.

In A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, Ludovica Fernandes Mano, a Portuguese transplant to Angola builds a wall separating her apartment from the rest of the building during the Angolan war for independence. She stays there for thirty or forty years later until everything in the story comes together, a bit like in the most absurd of French movie farces, but more like in the tiny patterns of a pysanka, all small and perfect and fit together just so.

Okay, I went away and looked at buzzfeed for fifteen minutes. I'm back. This is what I mean, what am I supposed to say about a good book other than it's a good book? I read it in an evening. It isn't heavy or long. It's like bubbles of air. It's like reading Gabriel García Márquez -- I wrote that in the margins, then saw that other reviews said that too -- but other reviews also talk about magical realism and I guess I don't know what that means because unlike in Gabriel García Márquez, there are no shrinking women or marveling at ice or ascending into the heavens. There are coincidences. There is that farce in the denouement. Like with Gabriel García Márquez, one needs to suspend disbelief, but A General Theory of Oblivion is so deftly drawn that suspending one's disbelief is a pleasure rather than a chore, like with Gabriel García Márquez. Is that what magical realism is: an enjoyable suspension of disbelief?

I liked A General Theory of Oblivion. I didn't love it, but I didn't put the book down once from the first page to the last, so what I will say is what I have said: I have read a good book.

A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa went on sale December 15, 2015.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.