Sunday, January 11, 2015

Books: Submergence By J.M. Ledgard

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is a lot ado about the novel "Submergence" by J.M. Ledgard (amazon). The books is applauded enthusiasticly by the critics. The novel is named a "Book of the Year" by Publishers Weekly and the New York Magazine praises the "emergency lighting of our internal universe, and the alien vastness of the outer one" (submergence).

All this noise kindled my curiosity. After reading the work I have mixed feeling. I enjoyed the style but I am disappointed by the plot.

"Submergence" tells 2 stories: James, a British expert for water supply, is the captive of jihadists who are allied to al-Qaeda in Somalia (East Africa) and Danielle, an English mathematician and oceanographer who specializes in maritime biology, explores the deep sea. Sometimes in the past they have met on a vacation on the winterly French Atlantic coast. The author mingles both stories and the plot jumps frequently from Africa to Europe and back.

The strength of the books are the sharp contrasts between the pleasures of Danielle`s rational world and the horror & suffering in the irrational environment of the jihadists and their victims. The plot leaps between European luxury and Somalian poverty & dirt, between cultivated live and the extreme opposite of that, between icy winter at the French Atlantic coast and African heat.

I learned something about the biology of the ocean and deepsea live forms. I also got informed about the Islamist terror and the struggle for survival in Somalia. Both situations are precisely,and stylishly described. In Germany we call this"Bildungsroman", a novel which wants more to educate than to entertain. That`s fine with me. But the books isno match for the "Goldfinch" by Donna Tart - my favorite of the recent years - which does both - educate & entertain - and finds a perfect match.

"Submergence" is a fine piece of modern literature but I think the praise is a bit overdone.

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