Review – Palimpsest

Cover of Palimpsest by Catherynne M. ValentePalimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente
Originally reviewed 2nd May, 2010

This book is beautiful. The language of it is mesmerising and enticing and sometimes cloying, there’s so much of it, it’s so thick with description and invention and ideas. I remember commenting about China Miéville’s work, and how the cities of his work almost seem to be characters themselves — I can see why people compare Palimpsest to his work, although in Palimpsest it’s more true than ever.

Reading this book is like exploring the city in the same limited way as the characters. Sometimes frustratingly: there’s a bit you want to see or understand or get to, but you can’t, not yet. You have to give it time for it to unfold.

I can understand why it has quite a lot of love-or-hate reactions. If you give it time, it’s a beguiling, rewarding book, but if you don’t have the time or the patience or the inclination, it’s impenetrable.

I didn’t really feel like I got to know the characters or the city as well as I would want to. Ordinarily, that would be a major turn-off for me, but there was enough to keep me satisfied, and the writing, the richness of the detail, was enough to compensate for the lack of my usual favourites. If there’s any criticism, it’s that the characters didn’t feel as rich and as real to me as I wanted them to — there were enchanting details about them, but I didn’t get to know them as I would like to.

Rating: 4/5

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2 thoughts on “Review – Palimpsest

  1. Another of those books that has been lingering on my TBR shelf for far too long. I think it’s that impenetrable nature – I need to wait until I’m in the mood to dedicate the time and allow it to become beguiling and rewarding.

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