Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let Us Talk of Things Foreign & Strange

I was lucky enough to receive an uncorrected proof of Maxine Swann's The Foreigners.

The cover is pretty awesome, and people will think you're FAKING reading it b/c the chick is upside down.

Essentially, this novel is narrated by an American woman, recently divorced, named Daisy. Her name isn't really that important, however, and is really only rarely mentioned, in passing - she is a nameless American, going through a hard time, who has escaped to Buenos Aires to hopefully regain a sense of self. She meets some interesting people, such as Gabriel, the gay prostitute who has dropped out of med school and tells her she should "try everything."

Two people, in particular, are focused on, however - the Argentine native Leonarda, and the Austrian immigrant Isolde.

Isolde is awesome and elegant and lonely and figuring shit out, too. She likes to go to fancy cocktail parties with the elite circle of the rich and elegant, yet her sense of loneliness prevents her from being as successful in this circle as her ambition would like. She also suffers from monetary difficulties - for some reason, pretending to be rich when you're not can get costly and bankrupt you.

As opposed to being a mermaid and pretending to be human, which costs you physically and causes every step you take to feel as though knives are running through your body.

Leonarda, on the other hand, is NOT a foreigner, but wishes to be. She is smart, seductive, and unpredictable. She is wild, she wants to be revolutionary, and is always in the mood for change. Her temperament and appearance are extremely malleable, as well as her social circle. She hangs out with people in a dingy lab doing complicated things on her computer, and she dresses in luscious cocktail dresses and hobnobs with the sophisticated, rich, and famous.

Both Leonarda and Isolde help our heroine/protagonist/American character through providing glimpses into different lives, providing friendship, and expanding Daisy's horizons.

I really enjoyed this novel, despite its' rather aimless feel, and the fact that it doesn't really go anywhere. At the end of the novel, there is no grand epiphany, but the journey of the novel is an interesting, intelligent one.

One of the odd things about this novel is that the author Maxine Swann is from America, herself, yet the novel has the feeling of a novel that has been translated. There is a murkiness to the story. The words are all discernible, but the manner in which they are put together, while coherent, brings forth a slightly fuzzy picture in the readers' mind. I liked this quality, personally, but can see it proving irritating to some readers.

Another quality which did not particularly bother me, but that might bother the reader, is that, overall, I'm not entirely sure the characters are likeable. They're not necessarily unlikeable, but they're also not necessarily people you read about and think to yourself: "This person sounds awesome. I want them to spring forth from these pages because I feel certain we would be great things were this odd, magical happenstance to occur."

Still, as was previously mentioned, the cover, righted, looks like it's upside down. If nothing else, this book will confuse and befuddle fellow bus/train/subway passengers. And really, guys, isn't that what reading is all about?


Misha said...

Hmm... sounds like an interesting read. I wonder where I can get my hands on it.

Hello from a new follower. :-)

Shelly Quade said...

Hello, Misha! Thank you for following me. :)

I know that my local Barnes & Noble has the book in-stock, though you can also always support your independent bookstores:

Let me know what you think of it!