Gilgamesh, by Joan London

1152037Sorry, readers. I’ve been bad about posting for the last, well, month or so. I’ve been re-reading the Sookie Stackhouse novels and because I don’t have anything new to say about them, I didn’t say anything about them. Since I misplaced the next book the series, and still have to go buy I new copy, I decided to read Gilgamesh, by Joan London

When I read about this novel–about a young Australian woman who chases after her lost Armenian lover with their young son in tow–I was hooked. A nineteen year old girl looking for her lost lover in Soviet Armenia. It sounded fantastic, like it could be a rich story. But as I read it, it started to seem very anemic to me. When I read about this book, I got the impression that it was going to be as much about far away places as love. So I was expecting tons of details about Europe, the Orient Express, Istanbul, Armenia, Syria, and Australia–all the places Edith visits in the book. But except for a few scattered phrases of Armenian, and some mentions of World War II and the NKVD, this book could have taken place anywhere.

Once I figured out that this wasn’t going to be a setting or a plot novel, I thought it must be a character novel. Nope, no such luck. The characters seemed flat and uninteresting to me. I sort of cared about Jim, the young son who travels around the world with his naive and slightly selfish mother, but that went away when he never seemed to develop a personality. I was hoping to bond with Edith, but I felt like I never really got a chance to know her. Sure there were glimpses, but I never really knew what any of the characters were thinking. By the end of the skimpy 256 pages in my trade copy, I was glad to see the last of them.

I am more that willing to admit that I didn’t “get” this book. But I felt disappointed in it. I was expecting a lot more and, given the setting London chose, this story could have been utterly fantastic. When I picked it up, I wanted to immersed in Edith’s world but it was flat and poorly described. The book claims to mirror the Epic of Gilgamesh, but I didn’t really see that either. Okay, we have loss and we have long journeys, but were was the quest for immortality? Instead, it read more like 1) the characters coming to terms with death and 2) a search to find one’s place in the world. If Leopold and Aram were stand ins for Gilgamesh and Enkidu, why did their story take place almost entirely off page? If Edith and Jim were the stand ins, why didn’t one of them die? Also, where were their great adventures?

I hate it when I come across a book with such strong potential that just doesn’t deliver.


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