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Posted August 28, 2013
This novel is both a thriller and a love story inextricably linked to the major events that took place between 1986 and 1991: the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the downfall of the Ceausescu and the subsequent ending of the Communist regime in Romania. In the novel’s foreground are Noah John and Lilith da Vinci, a journalist and photographer respectively, who embark on a torrid affect that will inevitably, like the times they live in, change their lives forever.
I believe that any novel’s protagonists should have at least one good virtuous characteristic, one redeemable trait that a reader can use to justify following the character’s story through the novel. But in Noah John there is nothing to hang that particular hat on. He is a weak, charmless character who commits an abominable act halfway through the book that is never fully addressed. Though this act is an allusion to what is happening and will happen in Germany it still cannot be forgiven and for me was a emotional distraction as I read the rest of the book.
Lilith da Vinci is a more redeemable character but still not that likeable. She is a strong, brave character, sexual permissive and has a belief in highlighting, through her photographs, the horrors of war and the world we live in.
The backdrop that the novel is set against and the protagonist’s part in these events is what makes the novel interesting and worthwhile reading. The novel’s allegorical structure, set as it is within the historically tumultuous five years that shook the world to its political and social foundations, allows the lover’s affair and characterization to reflect and imbue the time they are living through.
Many of the novel’s minor characters are poorly and lazily drawn. For instance Noah’s Scottish friend is called Mac and is a heavy drinker. The author writes some of Mac’s dialogue in the vernacular but spells the words phonetically.
The novel’s backdrop and how these world events and the reader’s knowledge of how these will affect the 1990s and the 21st century is what makes this book readable, not the main characters Noah and Lilith who at times appear nothing more than ciphers to decode a world in upheaval. Then again maybe this was the author’s intention.