Bibliofemme Bookclub An Irish Bookclub

January 10, 2012

Schopenhauer’s Telescope by Gerard Donovan

Filed under: Bookclub Books,Historical Fiction — The Writer @ 3:07 pm
Schopenhauer's Telescope Book Cover Schopenhauer's Telescope
Gerard Donovan
Historical Fiction
Counterpoint Press

Meeting: Thursday 26th August 2004

Like most of the others I found it slow to begin. Donovan won me over from page one with his beautiful writing and description but the characters of the Teacher and the Baker left me cold until at least half way through. I would have been happy to put it down and never finish it until I got closer to the end, but now I’m very glad that I did.

For me, this is a book that means more in the aftermath than it does in the reading. Images and ideas from it have stayed with me and keep cropping up.

Essentially a tale of good and evil, Schopenhauer’s Telescope explores the human condition against a taut and unforgiving backdrop. The Teacher and The Baker are in a snow-bound field somewhere in Europe in the middle of a civil war. As one digs a hole, the other watches and they embark on a series of conversations about the history of man and their own lives.

If it sounds like heavy going that’s because, at times, it is. It’s an ambitious but fully confident first novel that deliberately refuses to bow to the needs of the reader. I think the reason for this is that Donovan had a strong vision of exactly what he wanted to achieve with this book, a vision he was not willing to compromise.

Give it time. It might not grab you initially but it is worth the wait when it does. 4/5 The Writer

Score awarded by Bibliofemme: 2.8 out of 5

The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award at Listowel Writer’s Week

What the other femmes had to say
The DJ “The author takes a big risk with form in this complex debut about war and the human condition. Difficult to get into, but eventually worth it.” 3/5

The Techie “The dialogue is excellent, he portrays the atmosphere brilliantly and he never strays from the point that he’s trying to make. Loved it can’t wait to read his next book.” 4/5

The Historian “Donovan’s inability to write characters without a scrap of empathy meant that I didn’t care about anything except getting to the end of the book, even if I had to skip chunks of dialogue on holes, Genghis Khan and man’s inhumanity to man en route.” 1/5

The Connoisseur“Personally I didn’t like this. I think this book may appeal to men more? Too dark, heavy and slow with two characters who failed to engage me. Some really beautiful scenes conjured up but unfortunately it needs more than that.” 2/5

The Artist “A brave first novel, full of ideas and influences. A slow starter but ultimately enjoyable.” 3/5

The Gardener “Could any history buff write this novel? Well written and easy reading, but I felt as if the characters and situation was developed purely as a delivery mechanisms for the author’s historical and philosophical wanderings. Entertaining in parts, but on the whole, he aimed and missed.” 3/5

Also by Gerard Donovan
Dr Salt

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