Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: The Translator by Nina Schuyler

The Translator
In silken prose and with subtle suspense, Nina Schuyler brings us a mesmerizing novel of language and translation, memory loss and heartbreak, and the search for answers in a foreign country.

When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, her injury is an unusual but real condition--the loss of her native language. She is left speaking only Japanese, a language learned later in life. With her personal life at a crossroad, Hanne leaves for Japan. There, the Japanese novelist whose work she translated stunningly confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work.

Reeling, Hanne struggles for meaning and seeks out the inspiration for the author's novel--a tortured, chimerical actor, once a master in the art of Noh theater. Through their passionate and intriguing relationship, Hanne begins to understand the masks she has worn in her life, just as the actor dons the masks that have made him a legend of Noh. The demons from her past and present begin to unfold and Hanne sets out to make amends in this searing and engrossing novel.
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Kat's Review
This novel is not an easy read, though I think it's certainly a good book. If you're willing to invest some time in reading a story that's about more than what it seems, you may really enjoy this one. Although it doesn't have any strange or surprise twists, the story certainly doesn't go in the direction it looks to be heading at the beginning. The ending, while inevitable, is not predictable, or forced, and the book leaves the reader with a strange sense of completion, without actually tying up any of the loose ends.
Hanne is a translator working on the English translation of a Japanese novel about a man who must say goodbye to his wife, who has been lost to mental illness. This loss parallels the loss in Hanne's life of her estranged daughter, Brigitte. Without intending to, Hanne projects her own emotions into the translation, earning her the wrath of the novelist. Hanne, suffering from a head injury sustained earlier, sets off to find the person the author based the novel on, to see if she could have actually been that far off the mark in her translation. In a way, she's also setting off to reassess her notion of who she is, particularly in the wake of the injury that has robbed her of the English language.
The book could have taken so many predictable directions, from an epic romance with the actor who was the inspiration for the novel, to Hanne's tragic death from the head injury, and so on, but it doesn't. It moves quite fluidly, introducing the reader to understated but powerful characters who are as complicated as Hanne is herself. Hanne begins to see the world from a different perspective, a less rigid one, and one that allows her to finally understand the role she played in the estrangement of her daughter. There is no one turning point, nor is there a pat ending, but the book is still powerful. I found myself identifying with some of Hanne's rigid tendencies, and it helped m rethink my outlook on some things. An unintended benefit of the book, I suppose!
Rating: A Good Read
This book won't be for everyone. It doesn't have the highs and lows of most novels, nor is there a ton of conflict that erupts. It's a solid story with an intriguing subplot and complex relationships. I really enjoyed it, and I think that many others will too.
I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.

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