In mid-November I received a request to read a book for review on this blog. Since I first started reviewing books on Tossing It Out, I have been receiving a number of such requests and have been happy to oblige when I'm able to fit it into my schedule. Of course, I always accept the mission with the caveat that yours truly, Mr. Super Slow Reader, author of this blog, may take a while to get the job done. But I try. I try.
Now I am spoiled. Future books will have to meet new expectations set by one Veronika Carnaby. She has raised the bar by forwarding to me a book that I will call one of the best of 2012--or at least my favorite of the year and one of my favorites of all time. Veronika's Bohemia is my kind of story written in the kind of style that I enjoy.
As with any book review, my opinions are totally subjective. This can be seen in the range of reviews that one can find for Bohemia on Amazon or Goodreads. Bohemia seems to be one of those love it or hate it novels with a large group in the middle of it all. Count me as one who loved, loved, loved the book. As far as I'm concerned those on the lower range of opinion just didn't get it. I got it as soon as I started into the book and I was getting it and it never let up for me. I became a part of the story and was thrilled to be there.
What is the story? Here's how the author describes it:
Influenced by the works of Beat Generation authors and great poets, the story takes place during 1960 and chronicles a group of bohemian twenty-somethings who defy the "ideals" of a mid-twentieth century society to seek creative fulfillment. On a deeper level, it portrays the creative path that artists of all mediums tread, all the while depicting the challenges faced by youth and women in the ‘60s.
This was enough to lure me in--yeah, my kind of tale. The story of the artist, the creative thinker, my struggle and your struggle. Bohemia is a literary journey in the tradition of the Great American Novel. It's a female version of Huckleberry Finn become Holden Caulfield without all his self-absorbed angst following the paths set in Kerouac's On the Road.
The style of Bohemia is essentially Beat. The writing is funny at times, while beautifully insightful at others. Carnaby does a tremendous job of capturing the spirit of 1960 and creating characters that seem real and likable. The narrator of the story, Valerie Freed, starts out as a naive college grad with little idea of what she's going to do in life. During the course of the story, Valerie discovers her calling as a writer and begins to pursue her dreams in the biggest way she can. The character arc is one of the most natural I've ever experienced from any book.
Experience is a key word here. I felt like I didn't so much read this book as much as I lived it, felt it, and became a part of it. Carnaby did a splendid job of putting me into Valerie's mind. When the end of the book came, I wasn't ready to leave Valerie. She was now like a friend, so close that she was a part of me. Bohemia is one of those books I wanted to keep going.
Veronika Carnaby--I don't know how you found me and decided to share your book with me, but I'm glad you did. So often I am less than gratified by books that I read. Yours has left me satisfied and has lingered in my mind. Readers, if you like books like what I've described here, I encourage you to support Carnaby and hasten to obtain Bohemia. Use that Amazon gift certificate you got for Christmas. Buy a copy for a friend who has an interest in the Beat era or America circa 1960. Follow the dreams of Valerie Freed and her friends. Are these dreams similar to your own?
Veronika Carnaby can be found at her blog: http://veronikacarnaby.blogspot.com/
My reviews of Bohemia can be found at:
Have you read Bohemia by Veronika Carnaby? If so please share your thoughts about it. Are you a fan of Beat literature or the era? Are there any books that have taken you by surprise to become a favorite read?