Friday, 6 July 2018

A Long Blue Monday by Erhard Von Buren


A Long Blue Monday by Erhard Von Buren
Published in the UK by Matador on the 4th June 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £10 (PB)
Wordery : from £10 (PB)
Waterstones : from £10 (PB)
Amazon : from $5.31 / £3.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

The novel portrays, with dry humour, delicate irony and a touch of nostalgia, the lives and feelings of young people in the late 1950s.

“Erhard von B├╝ren pours out memories of love affairs, of family life, of student experiences or incidents from his readings... His style is spiced with waywardness and wit.” – Award of the Canton Solothurn Prize for Literature.

In A Long Blue Monday, the narrator, who is temporarily away from home working on a book about Sherwood Anderson, remembers his unrequited love affair with Claudia, whom he met at college during rehearsals for a play. 

How could he, the village lad, the son of a working-class family, aspire to gain the affection of Claudia, a sophisticated town girl, who lives with her wealthy family in a spacious house by the river? Worlds seem to separate the two. But he is convinced that where there’s a will there’s a way. As a young boy, he had tried, by being a model pupil and a model son, to repair his family’s damaged reputation. But now, in spite of all his attempts, his love remains unreciprocated. Finally he decides to take several weeks off college to write a play – a trilogy, no less – to gain Claudia’s esteem.

Despite clocking in at less than 300 pages, A Long Blue Monday was, for me, a very long read. It's my third von Buren novel so I was prepared for his writing style and slow pacing, but I couldn't get into this story. Told in the first person by a man now in his sixties, most of the novel is his reminiscences of his self-obsessed teenager years and his first love. The unfortunate recipient of his attentions, Claudia, is kept at a distance from von Buren's readers so we never get a real sense of their relationship. In fact most of the 'female creatures' in this book are essentially interchangeable names, seemingly only differentiated by their hair colour, and this casual chauvinism was really winding me up by the end of the book!

Other than frequent name-dropping of then-current American actors, films and plays - Tennessee Williams, Marlon Brando, etc - I didn't get much of sense of the early 1960s era although the rural Swiss locale is nicely portrayed. The majority of the book is our 'hero' rambling on about how good he is at school, how much he loves Claudia, and how difficult he is finding it to write a trilogy(!) of plays which he plans to inflict upon poor Claudia. I think the biggest problem I have with A Long Blue Monday isn't that our narrator is an unlikeable person - I don't necessarily have to like a character to be interested in their story - but that he is such a dull whiner! I sadly didn't care enough him to really become invested in his tale.

Perhaps other readers will have a better experience with A Long Blue Monday? I noticed the Award of Canton Solothurn Prize for Literature were complimentary about it, but personally I would suggest, if you're going to read Erhard von Buren, pick up Epitaph For A Working Man or Wasp Days instead.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Erhard von Buren / Contemporary fiction / Books from Switzerland

8 comments:

  1. I can't say I like the sound of that guy ;)

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    1. I think the whole book was just too 'male' for my reading tastes!

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  2. That's too bad. I tend to like the unlikable characters, but not when they're like this.

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  3. Oh God, not rent-a-girl syndrome (y'know, where you can literally swap one girl out for any other with no change)! That's usually the most annoying part of Dan Brown books ;)

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  4. Hmm.. I think a slow pace is something okay to read in a book if you are enjoying the storyline and characters. But if not, I can see how this was just another one to slog through. It doesn't sound like the setting is built well even though he tries...

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    1. I was disappointed in this one compared to his previous books

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