Monday, February 02, 2009

Book/Magazine Review: Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Some books simply ensnare you in the first few chapters and some would dare say that it's easily the best part of the book. That's pretty much how I feel with Generation Loss. It starts out too perfect in fact. First is our protagonist, someone that in the hands of a different writer, would paint her as pathetic and pitiful. Yet she's compelling and one easily falls in love with her despite all her faults, the rebellious girl you know you should avoid but can't help feel attracted to.

Then there's the tone. The book is indicative of a certain generation, one that Hand successfully conjures. I'm ignorant of the punk scene yet when Hand writes about it, it not only sounds authentic but actually feels familiar. This is compounded by the heroine's passion for photography and through a combination of details and apt metaphors that are consistent throughout the whole novel, one has an anchor to tie the narrative and the title.

Setting is another powerful tool in Hand's arsenal. One can feel the chill and the gloominess of the atmosphere, as if it's a forgotten memory rather than a fabricated vista. There are a lot of dark themes and motifs tackled in the book and this is not a clear-cut story of redemption. That would be too easy and Hand steps up to the plate. Again, perhaps the highlight for me is Hand's characterization. Her protagonist remains faithful to herself, all the while skirting the life of an actual rebel. There are no apologies, simply choosing the best course of action at the time. There's a certain romance in her tragedy and the author nurtures this aspect, giving readers an incentive to stick for the entire ride.

Generation Loss definitely impressed me, a book that hooks you and drowns you with its many layers. Whether it's technique or overall impact, Hand succeeds on both counts.

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