The Incarnations by Susan Barker

Book Review | Rating – 1/5 | Genre – Historical fiction / Magical Realism

Beijing, 2008, the Olympics are coming, but as taxi driver Wang circles the city’s congested streets, he feels barely alive. His daily grind is suddenly interrupted when he finds a letter in the sunshade of his cab. Someone is watching him. Someone who claims to be his soulmate and to have known him for over a thousand years.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

My first thoughts…

When I bought this book I was initially excited to read it. There had been good reviews, especially the ones that compared it David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. This was one of the main things that drew me to the book as I really enjoyed Mitchell’s book. There was also the front cover which had attacted me three times, the normal amount of times it takes before I buy a book.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I read this book on the bus heading to and from work for the past month. At first, it was rather interesting yet difficult to get to grips with, but towards the end of the book it just started to feel like a chore.

What did I like?

  • Similar to Cloud Atlas: As I said above, the book does bare a lot of resemblance to David Mitchell’s bestselling book. The narrative flows between the present (2008) and various past lives of the two main characters. Although it was hard to follow it did at least keep things interesting.

Its Flaws…

  • Hated the characters: At first the characters were different and interesting to find out more about. Then my curiosity turned into hatred, the characters hatred and violence towards each other was just unbearable to read. By the end of the book, there had been so many versions of their past lives that I couldn’t remember nor cared to remember anything about them
  • Difficult to follow: Similar, to the above point. There were so many different narratives going on that I started to lose track of what was going on. This happened with Cloud Atlas, but the linear narrative helped keep things trackable. This book’s constant back and forth was just too much.
  • Gratuitous sex scenes: Now I’m far from a prude, but when it comes to sex scenes in literature I like it to be subtle and not that often. This book just goes for it; every different narrative has graphic sex and sometimes rape – which is something I don’t want to be reading on repeat.

In conclusion… I really tried to give this book a chance, but I really just couldn’t get to grips with it. I’m sure that it is a good book for some people, I just won’t be the one that will be recommending it.


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