All The Names
Genre: Literary Adult
Author: Jose Saramago
Synopsis: Senhor Jose, a clerk at the Central Registry, is a middle-aged bachelor who has no interest beyond his daily routine of issuing certificates of birth, marriage and death. One day he chances upon the records of a woman and quickly becomes obsessed. But as he gets closer, he discovers more about her- and about himself- than he ever would have wished.
Why did I pick it up?: I read Death with Interruptions by Saramago in 2008 and afterwards vowed to read everything he wrote. I like to read different genres and there is a lot of YA on my to be read list, I wanted to shake things up.
Favorite Lines: "As I've already told you, I wasn't myself, I was in the grip of a decision."
"Forgotten mistakes are always the worst ones."
Likes: I love the intrigue created despite a lack of action. Even from the beginning the story moves quickly but it's all Senhor Jose's internal struggle. Above all, my favorite things about the book were the simple yet profound statements about humanity. Like Conor Oberst lyrics, you read the line and it summarizes so much about life but it is so basic, you wonder why you never thought of it yourself. I wanted to quote them above as my favorite lines, but most were way too long. Moments when the protagonist is guilty and fearful reminded me of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and I love that pulse of a story, the thrill of almost getting found out. Saramago does it very well.
Complaints: I have no complaints. I loved it. However, I will give those unfamiliar with Saramago's writing style some warnings. He wrote beautiful novels, but he made up his own rules. One sentence might contain 300 words--no exaggeration. A paragraph may span a dozen pages without breaks for a shift in topic or for dialogue. He formats dialogue in a unique way. Rather than using quotations or question marks he uses commas. He capitalizes the first letter when someone new speaks and rarely uses periods. Here's an example of a conversation between two people: Hello, how are you, How am I, horrible, that's how I am.
It took me a while to adjust to this shift from the usual formatting, but now I understand without having to think about the punctuation or capitalization. But if you pick up one of his books, don't say I didn't warn you.
Recommendation: This book reads like a lesson in the human condition. Saramago fills pages with the analysis of the smallest actions. Writers should consider reading this and his other novels because afterwards you feel as though you have a better understanding of the world. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true.
Next Week: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
I am so pumped to read the final book in her series.