Thursday, September 8, 2011

Marie C.'s Review: Minotaur, by Benjamin Tammuz

Minotaur, by Benjamin Tammuz. Published 2005 by Europa Editions.

Minotaur is a strange little book. Roughly speaking, it's the story of a woman named Thea as seen through the eyes of the men who love her at different points in her life. There's G.R., her ill-fated fiancé, a privileged young man who meets her at a party after admiring her from a distance. And there's Nikos, a Egyptian of Greek descent, a scholar who falls in love with her in England and wins her with stories of the Mediterranean. But through it all is one Alexander Abramov, an Israeli spy obsessed with the young woman, sending her letters and haunting her footsteps for years.

I have to admit this is one of the more unusual books I've read lately. The book is divided into four parts; for the first, we stick with Thea's relationship with Abramov from her point of view, then, little by little, we see how this man has infiltrated himself into every aspect of her life. They never meet, at least not as far as she knows, but he remains a palpable presence in her life until his death. Subsequent chapters cover her other lovers until the final chapter which focuses on Abramov's life's story and we learn what has made him this way.

I read the book knowing it was about a certain type of obsession and hoping to see some insight into the minds of the partners in this relationship-of-sorts. Benjamin Tammuz explores Abramov's character in detail, but Thea remains an enigma. I found it to be an absorbing and relatively quick read, suspenseful and intricately plotted. It's definitely difficult to put down, especially when the narrative turns to Abramov and his fascinating story. It's a fine, substantial novel that literary-fiction readers will enjoy, something pretty different from a lot of what's out there.

It's book 4 of 14 on my way to Amante level.