This past Saturday I grabbed a 10% off coupon and drove off to Barnes & Noble for some late night perusing. I had with me a list of books I was interested in buying from which I had to chose just one. I got to the store about twenty-five minutes before closing which meant I was in a panic trying to decide which book to buy. You see, I’m not very good at making decisions. I was able to narrow it down to two with about 10 minutes left. So there I was with a little face off…
And the winner was… The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. Lonesome Dove was very nearly the victor, but I have plans to purchase it later from Amazon.com as part of their 4 mass-market paperbacks for the price of 3 deal and besides it wasn’t actually on my list. So don’t worry, if you were pulling for Lonesome Dove it will eventually be part of my collection.
If you have not heard of The Last Samurai, I now reveal to you a synopsis courtesy of Publishers Weekly:
DeWitt’s ambitious, colossal debut novel tells the story of a young genius, his worldly alienation and his eccentric mother, Sibylla Newman, an American living in London after dropping out of Oxford. Her son, Ludovic (Ludo), the product of a one-night stand, could read English, French and Greek by the age of four. His incredible intellectual ability is matched only by his insatiable curiosity, and Sibylla attempts to guide her son’s education while scraping by on typing jobs. To avoid the cold, they ride the Underground on the Circle Line train daily, traveling around London as Ludo reads the Odyssey, learns Japanese and masters mathematics and science. Sybilla uses her favorite film, Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai, as a makeshift guide for her son’s moral development. As Ludo matures and takes over the story’s narration, Sibylla is revealed as less than forthcoming on certain topics, most importantly the identity of Ludo’s father. Knowing only that his male parent is a travel writer, Ludo searches through volumes of adventure stories, but he is unsuccessful until he happens upon a folder containing his father’s name hidden in a sealed envelope. He arranges to meet the man, pretending to be a fan. The funny, bittersweet encounter ends with a gravely disappointed Ludo, unable to confront his father with his identity. Afterward, the sad 11-year-old resumes his search for his ideal parent figure. Using a test modeled after a scene in Seven Samurai, he seeks out five different men, claiming he is the son of each.
The novel has received some very good reviews, and I was hooked immediately by the title. However, the main complaints, according to customer reviews on Amazon, are that the writing is pretentious and the author appears to be “showing off”. This actually has me more intrigued with the book. Now it just has to make it to the top of my TBR pile.