Book review: Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco

ocean_seaSome books I read for the excitement, some books I read for the clever plot twists; I’ve even been known to read some books just to study the punctuation. Alessandro Barrico’s works I tend to read just for the sheer pleasure of looking at the words. Ocean Sea is no exception. I think the stark way to describe it is a very long Italian poem translated into English (and it’s in the translation that many books like this fail in my view). If you go much deeper then Ocean Sea is a work of magical realism. It tells the story of some quite ordinary people who share desires and life experiences  that drive them to this magical inn by the sea. Sometimes I need a bit of a firm grounding when I’m reading the book; I thought that I would have liked to have been a little more certain what this place actually was. But as I often find with Barrico’s books, it’s best to stop worrying about the intracies of the story and just let yourself get carried along by the prose and the subtle humour. I liked the idea, though I wasn’t sure there was enough there for a book of its length. It did tend to meander a lot through the characters lives, and so I think I was mostly lost in the use of language and phrasing than the story itself. There were some moments in the book that were quite moving; I was fascinated by the man writing love letters to a woman he was yet to meet, and the man who was researching the nature of endings. It really did go off the deep end in a few places and I found myself struggling to keep up; this is where the book lacked the smooth storytelling that the author/translator demonstrated in Silk (still my favourite book of all time). But as a study in the use of poetic prose, Ocean Sea is stunning.

Seven out of ten.

 

 

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