Thursday, September 1, 2011

Billiards at Half Past Nine

I’m really not sure what to say about Heinrich Boll’s Billiards at Half Past Nine.

I’ve sat with that sentence now for quite some time, and haven’t been able to come up with anything else.

Firstly, I took too long to read this novel. It wasn’t anything against it, anything I didn’t like. There were even periods in the last two months when I was really into it. But then I would see something shiny. This is very different to the other Boll novel I’ve read, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, which I finished in two days.

Secondly, it wasn’t anything like I was expecting. But on the other hand, I’m not sure I was expecting anything. Which, I suppose, is strange. I didn’t know anything about this book other than what was written on the back cover. Boll is not particularly fashionable, as far as I can tell, so not many people are talking about him.

Billiards at Half Past Nine is a day in the life of a family of architects in 1958 Germany still dealing with the aftermath of Nazis. Strange thing about this book – Nazis are never mentioned. Instead, everyone is divided up into those who partook of the Host of the Beast and those who didn’t (also called lambs). But the beast imagery also continues into their present. Every chapter is told from the point of view of a different family member. I sometimes had difficulty figuring out who I was following.

I feel like I’m getting nowhere with this.

The writing was good, but nothing jumped out at me enough to underline. The plot was mildly interesting, but not enough for me to even explain any bit of it here beyond what I already did. I don’t know what else to say about Billiards, and I have nothing to say about Boll other than I want to like him but I just keep being left cold. I liked Katharina Blum better than this one.

Here ends my useless review.

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