DNF Review:The Translator by Nina Schuyler

Sunday, November 24, 2013
Title: The Translator
Author: Nina Schuyler
Genre: general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 303
Published: July 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: NA

In silken prose and with subtle suspense, Nina Schuyler brings us a mesmerizing novel of language and translation, memory loss and heartbreak, and the search for answers in a foreign country.

When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, her injury is an unusual but real condition--the loss of her native language. She is left speaking only Japanese, a language learned later in life. With her personal life at a crossroad, Hanne leaves for Japan. There, the Japanese novelist whose work she translated stunningly confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work.

Reeling, Hanne struggles for meaning and seeks out the inspiration for the author's novel--a tortured, chimerical actor, once a master in the art of Noh theater. Through their passionate and intriguing relationship, Hanne begins to understand the masks she has worn in her life, just as the actor dons the masks that have made him a legend of Noh. The demons from her past and present begin to unfold and Hanne sets out to make amends in this searing and engrossing novel.

This one is another on me. Sometimes things just don't fit right, and that's how I feel about The Translator. It's not a bad book, it's just not my kind of book, writing or character-wise. I thought about not reviewing The Translator, but I do think a lot of people would enjoy this more were they to hear about it. 

I wanted to like it more than I actually did. I just couldn't get a read on any of the characters. Hanne's dry narration didn't help either. Her situation was interesting, but her voice wasn't. It was dull and lifeless and I wasn't invested in anything. Too much is told directly to the reader through Hanne rather than shown through word and deed. That's a big bookish turn off for me and The Translator is guilty.

Another issue I had was what the book was about. It's centrally concerned with language and identity, and I was expecting a historical fiction -- based on that gorgeous cover. My hopes for content aren't the book's fault, but the storyline present in the novel was of much less interest to me. After seven days stuck roughly 64% into the novel, I set it down for good. It's a classic "it's not you, it's me."

Certainly, for the right audience, The Translator will provide a full and satisfying reading experience. Unfortunately, I have far too many books I want to read to waste so much time on one I know I won't end up being happy about when I have finished. So it's onward to a new story for me, but I do want to mention to this to potential readers who are interested in this type of fiction.

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