Thursday 20 October 2011

Before We Say Goodbye by Gabriella Ambrosio

Before We Say Goodbye is a beautifully written, very short novel / novella. (I think it takes about 2 hours to read it all). I read this in bursts - nearly half of it in one go while waiting at an airport, then, months later, another chunk.

Why the months of reading other things? Because, as beautifully written and effective as this novel is, it is not an easy read. The book has a dreamy atmosphere - even though it is extremely well grounded, too. A strange thing to say: a book that feels like a (bad) dream, and almost like journalism, all at the same time.

Initially, I struggled a bit (one character's internal process is a bit surreal, and I can sometimes find the surreal a struggle to read). But once I got past the discombobulation that the sheer number of characters (and different names, all of which sound equally alien to my ears) and the occasional episodes of a near-feverish imagination engender, it is a very rewarding book.

On some levels, I want to set aside a few hours and read it again, all in one go, to appreciate the craftsmanship of the writing, the detail, and the emotional depth. On another level, I may never read it again at all. The dreaminess is not just pretty, it is sinister, too, and there is that feeling of inevitability that sometimes haunts a dream.

If you watched Paradise Now, or if you read Joe Sacco's Palestine, and were able to appreciate (though not, perhaps, enjoy) these, then Before We Say Goodbye is likely to be well up your street. It is so beautifully crafted, there is almost joy in reading it - though it is filled with sadness and despair...

Rating: 5/5