The Book of Crows by Sam Meekings
Just finished reading The Book of Crows by Sam Meekings and before I go any further will say what a really good book this is. I love the writing style and, because of the different stories visited, there is a wealth of information that is fascinating to read about.
The book contains a number of different stories that all weave together ranging in years from as early as 80 BCE to almost present day c.1990s and is based on a mythical book called the Book of Crows. A book that relates the entire history of the world and as such is sought after by many.
I really liked this. The writing style is easy to read but evokes the places, the people and the times and makes for really interesting reading. Sam Meeks manages to write five different stories and yet produce a different voice for each and really seems to have a grasp of Chinese culture.
We visit the whorehouse of a Thousand Sighs where a young, kidnapped girl has just been brought and now looks set to spend the rest of her life. We spend time with an alcoholic civil servant on his pursuit of truth following the disappearance of his friend after a landslide that appears to be covered up by the authorities. We travel with a 13th century Franciscan monk and listen to his deathbed confession and we take a look at the life of a grieving poet who has been summoned to spend time at the Emperors’s palace.
There’s a lot going on but it isn’t overwhelming or difficult to keep track of. There are no major info dumps that break the story but just a gradual build up to the story with enough description to pull you into each story and keep you intrigued. I found that with each different story I wanted to stay exactly where I was and continue to read the life story of that individual to such an extent that when the next chapter took me to another time and place I would be momentarily cross at the switch – but that feeling was very short lived as the next protagonist just draws you in all over again. I find myself really impressed by Meek’s ability to make all the stories compelling. It’s not an easy task and quite often with this type of narrative you have definite favourites and definite areas that you’re not enjoying as much. I must admit that I enjoyed the House of Sighs stories and the harsh existence of the women contained within. But, I also really enjoyed the other stories. The alcoholic civil servant is really interesting reading. His life just seems to be in turmoil as he lurches from place to place in a drunken stupor – there’s an excellent twist to this particular story that for a second made me gape and then made me laugh.
On the whole a really impressive book. I will definitely go back and check out Meeking’s first book and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this, particularly if you enjoy reading about different cultures throughout the ages.