Saturday, October 30, 2010

book review: How to Escape from a Leper Colony by Tiphanie Yanique

How to Escape from a Leper Colony: A Novella and StoriesThe backstory:  How to Escape from a Leper Colony was one of the 5 Under 35 selections from the National Book Foundation this year.

My thoughts: This book is dubbed a novella and stories, but I would classify it as including two novellas. As always with collections, however, it's difficult to describe. The common themes among the stories are their Virgin Islands setting and ideas on colonialism. I found overtones of ideas from Monique Roffey's White Woman on a Green Bicycle (my review), which looked at an ex-patriot British couple living in Trinidad. I don't mean to equate colonial literature about two different countries, but there were some thematic similarities.

Regular readers know I am not a huge fan of short story collections, but I do often enjoy them. I adored Tiphanie Yanique's writing, and she skillfully evoked strong characters and a setting, which was especially impressive in the shorter stories.
"Movies are like so much art. They can start a revoltuion. This was not a movie about war. Or about race and oppression; no one talked about those things in 1939. A man loved a woman. A woman loved a man. They were willing to do bad things for that love." (pages 8-9, "How to Escape from a Leper Colony")
The collection did fall a little short for me in cohesion. Despite sharing a setting and theme, the collection felt disjointed as a whole to me, which is a clear indication of my lack of fondness for the art form. On their own, I think I would have enjoyed the stories more.

The verdict: While the collection wasn't a home run for me, short story lovers will delight. This collection also will appeal to fans of international fiction. Regardless, Tiphanie Yanique is an impressive young talent, and I hope she turns her eyes to a novel next.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 240 pages
Publication date: March 2, 2010
Source:  my local public library

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1 comment:

  1. I have a copy of this book waiting for me, and I am pretty thrilled to be getting the chance to read it. It sounds like it was not a perfect read, but an interesting one nevertheless.

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