Monday, May 24, 2010

Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James

Published: 2009
Pages: 319
Genre: Fiction
In the wake of their mother's mysterious death, Linno and Anju are raised in Kerala by their father Melvin. When Anju wins a scholarship to a prestigious school in America, she seizes the opportunity, even though it means betraying her sister. Meanwhile, back in Kerala, Linno is undergoing a transformation of her own, rejecting the wealthy suitor whom her father has chosen. When Anju goes missing, Linno comes up with a scheme to procure a visa so that she can travel to America to search for her sister (From back of book).
Generally, I enjoy books about dark, scandalous family secrets. That's what I was expecting from Atlas of Unknowns, and I was waiting for something momentous to occur at each page turn. I was waiting, waiting, waiting, plowing through chapter after chapter... but nothing really happened.

Now, don't get me wrong - this is not a bad book by any means. James's writing is simple, at times dry, and at other moments very deep. The concept of the book itself is a good one: two sisters who are separated in different countries are struggling to find their place and come to terms with their family's past (which, by the way, isn't very shocking). I connected with the characters, I understood their issues, and I even cared about them. When I reached the end of the book, however, it felt as if something was missing. I didn't feel like anything was resolved, and I didn't feel any closure. I guess you could argue that the book is wonderful in its simplicity, but I wasn't feeling it.

I want to love this book. It's almost painful how monotonous it felt, because I know that Atlas of Unknowns isn't just any old piece of fiction. It has potential to be a masterpiece, if only it contained more twists, more emotion. To me, the raw elements that make a great book are here. They just need to be developed and be built upon to turn Atlas of Unknowns into a poignant and unforgettable novel.

Recommendation: It's hard to recommend this book to a certain group of people, because I know each person will be affected differently and take away different things. So if you see Atlas of Unknowns in the library, I suggest you give it a try. It didn't blow my mind, but it might blow yours.


Hannah Stoneham said...

You have certainly made this one sound interesting! It is a shame when a book turns out to be something slightly different to what you were expecting when you started. thank you for sharing an interesting and candid review.


Juju at Tales of said...

Thank you for your honesty. Your reviews are always a joy to read.

Cat said...

It does sound interesting - sorry you were disappointed.

Aths said...

I'll give this a try, but probably only because Kerala is my home state. I'm wondering what family secret the author considered shocking enough, maybe it's cultural? Anyways, if I get to reading this anytime, I'll let you know what I thought. Thanks for the honest review!

Emidy said...

Hannah - It is an interesting book, but like you said it wasn't what I was expecting. I still liked it, though!

Juju - Aw, that's so sweet of you to say that. I'm glad you enjoy them.

Cat - It's interesting for sure!

Aths - Oh wow, that's neat! It talks about the location a bit so I'm sure you'll recognize some of it. I hope you read it eventually and tell me what you think of it!

Milli said...

It sounds very interesting. Especially the title is so creative! And I love the cover too. Thanks for sharing and nice review!

Emidy said...

Milli - Why thank you! Yes, I love the title. And the cover is so pretty in person!