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January Books 14) The Tin Drum

14) The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass (.co.uk, .com)

Part of my reading resolutions. This is the story of a boy growing up in Germany between 1927 and 1954 - in the Free City of Danzig until 1945, then in Düsseldorf - with a couple of fantastical wrinkles: he is able to shatter glass at will by yelling at it, and he deliberately decides not to grow and remains the size of a three-year-old until the war (and even then he grows only to four feet tall).

I found it pretty fascinating. The liminal identities of what is now northwestern Poland are vividly brought to life - various members of our hero's family are forced to identify themselves as Polish or German, though their roots are in fact Kashubian; and the growth of Nazism, and the consequences of it, told in a tone which I found descriptive rather than preachy. I don't know Danzig at all, so I found those bits particularly interesting; I do know Düsseldorf a bit, and felt the author's heart was less in it there (though it's still a good description). Also, because great stories are written about unlikely events, he happens to be in Normandy on D-Day, so we get to hear about that too from an angle I wasn't really familiar with.

Not quite sure what to make of Oskar's physical distinctness. Peter Pan never grew up either, but the consequences seemed much more benign. In any case, Oskar is able to beget children despite his physically immature appearance. Perhaps, living as I do with disability in my own home, I am looking for something that isn't there. Apart from that, I also enjoyed the intensity of the story of the relationship entanglements of Oskar and his relations and neighbours. It's a long book but worth the effort.

Top UnSuggestion for this book: Eldest, by Christoper Paolini (the sequel to Eragon).

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