The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Exiles, by Ron Hansen

Recently, the New York Times Book Review offered an essay on boring books, explaining why book reviewers seldom call books “boring.” That essay was a lot more interesting than Exiles, which is a very boring book.

Here’s where I explain why I read it: Ron Hansen has a strong reputation as a best-selling author, and the ostensible subject matter — the deaths of five German nuns in an 1875 shipwreck — sounded promising. I still think the sinking of the Deutschland would make for a good book. But someone else is going to have to take a crack at it, because Hansen’s book was boring.

Buried in Exiles are the seeds for a few fascinating short stories about life in the 1800s and what happens to German girls from poor families and the migration of European missionaries to the United States. Or maybe someone could structure another book around these ideas. They just need to read Exiles as a cautionary example of what not to do.

Where did Hansen go wrong? Well, there’s an epic poem about the Deutschland, written by a priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins. And at least half the book, maybe more, is about Hopkins, who wasn’t all that interesting himself, at least as portrayed by Hansen. I also didn’t like the fact that Hopkins’ seminary came across as roughly equivalent to a shabby but elite college for the rich.

I am not recommending it.

As for animal lovers, you have nothing to fear — there are no animal characters in this very boring book. It is therefore SAFE for animal lovers.

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February 5, 2010 - Posted by | Book Reviews, boring books, historical fiction | , , ,

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