Saturday, 17 September 2011

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen (4.5/5)

The back says: Dr Leo Liebenstein is rather impressed with the woman in his apartent pretending to be his wife. The grass-scented hair, the Argentinian accent, even the way her hip turns slightly inwards at the top she's fooled everyone, it seems, but him. This Reama brought home a small russet puppy – and his Rema doesn't like dogs.

And so begins Leo's quest to find his 'real' wife. Together with his psychiatric patient Harvey – who's utterly convinced he's a secret agent responsible for the weather – he strives to solve the mystery of Rema's disappearance. Soon Harvey's delusions seem less like and illness and more like plain old common sense to Leo – but not, unfortunately, to everyone else. As realities collide with each other and begin to break down, Leo knows everything will be fine if he could just get rid of this headache.

I say: This was far better than I had anticipated, and I’m not even quite sure how to rate it. A part of me wants to give it a full 5/5, but another is happy with the 4.5. The main reason is that there are a lot of meteorological expressions, and being that I’m not too interested in that field of study, there were a few passages that got a tad too technical for my liking. However, I do understand why they were there, and they weren’t even hard to understand, but even so; that is my main only issue.


I loved being inside of Leo's head. His thought process was exceptionally riveting and oddly hilarious, especially the further along he tumbled. He was so calm and calculated convinced of his truth, and being a psychiatrist himself, obviously knew exactly what he needed to look at to prove his point.

So he thought.

Galchen is a very talented writer, and I really liked the subtle beauty to the prose. Leo truly is a fascinating man and, because it's a first person narrative, very convincing – at first, it's only when he interacts with other people that I started thinking something was amiss. Well, apart from the whole deal of his wife being someone else, but that could very easily happen. I was impressed by the way Galchen had Leo spiralling down quite slowly because he was trying to be rational about it, and then it had all accumulated and we were given clues at to, roughly, how long this had been going on – and how deep it actually was.

I also thought it was a nice touch that the professor of meteorology, Tzvi Gal-Chen, that they were so obsessed with is based on Galchen's father, complete with pictures and all.

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