It may have been written a decade ago, but the method of choosing to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was entirely new for me. As someone who works in the digital world, I decided for the first time to let the force of the internet choose my next kindle download. Surfing a few well-ranked pages with titles like “best 20 books of the last decade.” Or the “top 50 modern novels,” this unusually titled novel kept popping up right in the top few ratings. Curious as to what it was about, but also determined to veer off into a genre away from the usual suspects I usually opt for, this charming book left quite an impression and was certainly nothing like I’d ever read before. It’s distinct nature is clearly a major factor in it winning the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Not even the unusual way of telling the story through several connected characters, the regular use of Spanish (words which eventually you learn to just wash over you), or the way it sneakily teaches you a fair chunk of brutal Dominican Republic history, can it slow down the page turning.

Set in New Jersey, US, where the writer Díaz was raised and endured the oppressive dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, the book uses beautiful language to drag us along the difficult life of Oscar De León, an overweight Dominican geek, obsessed with the unlikely prospect of romance, science fiction and fantasy. However, this is by no means a vanilla ‘coming of age’ read, but a powerful and emotive piece of work that takes you to a new place and uses honest, realistic dialogue that plucks at the heart strings and evokes sympathy for both Dominicans of that time and also those who struggle just growing up and into their own life.

8/10

 

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