Thursday, April 3, 2014

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

A thoughtful novel that records an American professor’s experience on a week long spiritual retreat to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial, along with a diverse group of individuals from different religions and nationalities. 

In Paradise is a thought provoking novel with expressive prose. The setting is a vital part to the story and is vividly portrayed with stunning accuracy. The history components of the story are also presented in an engaging manner. 

The novel is very character driven but chooses to focus mainly on their existential ideas. I think the characters are suppose to represent exaggerated archetypes or symbolic caricatures. The characters have intense dialogue that can be blunt and offensive. This results in continuous, highly charged, unfiltered character conflict. 

The plot was relaxed and exploratory but highlighted character interactions, revelations and back stories. The novel illustrates how a person’s culture, family, nationality, religion, and hometown helps mold their world outlook. It was interesting to learn why certain characters chose to make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz, what they hoped to gain from the experience, and their view of what took place in history.

It was fascinating to watch the characters go through a cathartic transformation based on their longing for a sense of identity, redemption, absolution, and faith. I also enjoyed the philosophical narratives on the origin and evolution of evil, survival, and human nature. 

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads]

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