Walks beside the river inspire one woman’s memories and meditations.
German author Kinsky’s (Summer Resort, 2011) latest book to appear in English is a slow, painstaking meditation on walking and rivers and the power of observation. It’s being marketed as a novel, but it could just as easily have been branded a book-length essay. The unnamed narrator, who grew up on the shores of the Rhine, is now living in London, where she takes frequent walks by the River Lea, a tributary of the Thames. The book is made up of the observations she makes as she walks there as well as in her own neighborhood. There is, for example, the “thin-lipped Croat” who runs a secondhand shop nearby. Or there’s Greengrocer Katz, who serves the area’s many observant Jews. The narrator is, to say the least, a wanderer, and her observations of London are interspersed with reminiscences of other places she’s passed through—Canada, Bosnia, and elsewhere. These meditations can be slow going, especially for anyone who doesn’t seek out lengthy descriptions of shrubbery. You become almost desperate for some small semblance of action—nothing so crude as a plot, certainly, but at the very least for someone to say something. Needless to say, there is little dialogue, little that is external to the narrator’s mind. Certain hints do loom—to wartime, to the unnamed narrator’s unnamed son—but these fail to resolve themselves.
A ponderous, meandering work that leads nowhere definitive.