A few months ago, my book club chose this book, and I’m glad we did. I don’t think I would have read it otherwise.
First off, let me say that this book is not as dark as the title makes it seem. It’s actually a lovely narrative whose plot line follows a whodunit mystery. It was originally written in Polish and published in 2009, though it still feels very relevant. To characterize it as simply a whodunit wouldn’t do the book justice. This is not the mystery that’s filled with angst and surprises around every corner, until the end.
The protagonist, Janina, is an elderly woman who lives on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. One of the author’s strengths is her ability to flesh out characters so they jump off the page in a very realistic way. The entire novel reveals slivers of insight into Janina’s life and character. The author explores the dichotomies in people that make us truly human. Her character portraits feel rich and deep. I really enjoyed getting to know this protagonist. She lives alone and goes into great detail about her solitude. After a neighbor of hers is murdered, Janina comes to a curious conclusion about the murderer.
I will admit that I zoned out at parts mostly related to complex astrology. Janina is an astrologer, so she goes into great detail about which planet is in which house and when Mercury is in retrograde. Though I love astrology, I tuned out on that part.
But I tuned right back in and kept listening, and I’m glad I did! This was a very interesting meditation on human nature and a fully imagined list of characters. I would recommend this book.
What books have you enjoyed lately? I need some suggestions to take back to book club next month.