Thursday, May 19, 2011

Historical Fiction: The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

As a result of a series of tragedies during the first years of his life, two-year-old Jozef Vinich and his father return from America to rural Austria-Hungary in 1901. There the elder Vinich takes up shepherding and, realizing that Jozef's stepmother does not treat her stepson well, takes Jozef with him. The duo are eventually joined by an orphaned relative known as Zlee. In 1916, Zlee and Jozef - now teenagers - sign up as sharpshooters with the Austrian army. Sent to the Italian front, Jozef's "sojourn" will take him to the trenches, the Alps, and a Sardinian POW camp before he begins to make his way home to his father after Austria's defeat in WWI.

This book and others have begun to increase my understanding of what makes a particular type of fiction "literary." The writing, the tone, the general slowness of plot that still draws in readers and leaves time for them to think on what the author's saying - The Sojourn matches my characteristics of literary fiction. It's not the absolute best that I've read, but it's still a worthwhile read. The setting itself is interesting (Austria-Hungary and Italy in WWI) as are the characters' nationality (Slavic). And while at times I wished the novel had been more detailed instead  of dealing more in generalities of conditions and events rather than specifics, the writing seems in keeping with the fact that when Jozef is recording his experiences in 1972, he is writing from his memories. For readers who enjoy literary fiction, well-written historical novels, and war literature, I recommend this book.

My ARC of The Sojourn was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Published by the Bellevue Literary Press, it went on sale April 19, 2011.

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