The Island of Books

The Island of Books

Book - 2016 | First English edition
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"A 15th-century portrait painter, grieving the sudden death of his lover, takes refuge at the monastery at Mont Saint-Michel, an island off the coast of France. He haunts the halls until a monk assigns him the task of copying a manuscript - though he is illiterate. His work slowly heals him and continues the tradition that had, centuries earlier, grown the monastery's library into a beautiful city of books, all under the shadow of the invention of the printing press."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Toronto : Coach House Books, [2016]
Edition: First English edition
ISBN: 1552453383 (paperback)
9781552453384 (paperback)
Branch Call Number: FIC FORTIER
Characteristics: 147 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Mullins, Rhonda 1966-- Translator


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Mar 17, 2017

A most unusual book, hard to classify. In the end, I had to call it a dream sequence, conceived by a very talented writer. Some of the passages are spectacularly insightful; for example: "It is not enough for us to learn, to know and to believe. We still have to invent." If that passage alone were all that the book contained, the writing of it would have been a worthwhile endeavor. There are a number of other similarly insightful and epigrammatic fragments.
So why only three stars? Because in the end, the book never gets going with a substantial narrative. The writer, in both voices that she uses (her own modern one and that of a late medieval painter) has rendered a collection of fragments. Beautiful and unique as the fragments are, they never coalesce into a substantial portrait of either Mont-St-Michel or its hallowed library.

Feb 15, 2017

The prose and imagery is beautiful. However, the book takes place on an island with a monastery, and I don't have enough understanding of the Catholic church to understand what is going on.


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