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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.2 out of 5
5 Stars
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  • Michael's Musings

    Not what i was expecting. Not her best work by a long shot.

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  • Made me muse and think about our world right now

    Three stories, which seem to have nothing in common, connected by themes such as racism, sexuality, loneliness, migration, complex family relationships, a yearning to be loved, and illnesses. I wasn’t a fan of A Little Life. In fact, I DNF. I found it too sad, too graphic, too descriptive, too cruel. And still, the part I read has been etched into my mind forever. And that’s why I decided to read To Paradise. I loved the author’s writing, and the premise reminded me of Cloud Cuckoo Land, another epic tale with multiple timelines in different ages. And that one is just one of my favorite reads of 2021. The books couldn’t be different, though. And still, if you look at those themes … The book is divided into three parts. A story about David, a wealthy loner whose parents died from an infectious disease. It’s 1893, and HY shows us an alternative America. David lives in the free states where being queer is normal, but Black people aren’t allowed citizenship. When he meets poor Edward, he falls head over heels. But what are Edward’s intentions? Then the book moves to 1993, to Hawaiian David (the beautiful cover is a Hawaiian fisher boy in 1898, by Dutch painter Herbert Vos), being in a relationship with Charles, an older man, while AIDS and death are everywhere in the gay community. When one of Charles’s friends is dying, David receives a letter from his estranged father. Finally, the last part of the book moves to a female first-person narrative. Charlie is married, but doesn’t really know her husband, while pandemics, climate change, and a totalitarian regime control life. This part goes back and forth from 2093 to forty/fifty years before, and also tells the story of Charlie’s grandfather Charles. While the first two stories are pretty stilted, this one is really scary. The blurb calls the story a symphony, and I believe that description fits this book very well. Slow and vulnerable at first. Then turned on more firmly because of the increasing tension. Switching again to a calmer pace like an intermezzo. Then building up to a crescendo, becoming more and more bombastic until you are completely immersed. Some people love symphonies, and some people hate them. And that will also be the case with To Paradise. It’s a monstrosity, the pacing is rather slow, the sentences are long, and it isn’t easy to connect the stories. This isn’t a book to read because you want to love the characters or laugh or cry. The book radiates aloofness and is written in a rather formal language. But it’s a warning to all of us and one to reflect on. Because if we continue like this, the world might end up in terror and fear, and we’ll lose all the progress we’ve made. I doubted my rating. The first two stories were definitely a four-star and sometimes even a five-star read, but the last story was long, and it felt a bit too … much? All those pandemics and zones and numbers and huge information dumps ... But it’s also the only one which gave me a lump in my throat, and the stories together made me muse and think about our world right now. And that’s why, in the end, I rated the whole book four stars. I truly hope we and our kids and grandkids will never end up in so much fear. If, after reading my review, you think this book might be too much for you (particularly part III) and you like YA, check out The Outrage by William Hussey. Similar themes (without the pandemics) and so much easier to read.

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