Bella the Deacon, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by Bella the Deacon)
Zoli's quick-paced beautifully written story transported me into Roma culture across numerous decades in several countries: a captivating saga of a character to be long-remembered, respected, loved.
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Random House Trade -
Open Zoli to just about any page and you'll find a passage worth reading two or three times. The prose is gorgeous, the story remarkable -- characters practically leap out from the bindings. McCann's novel reminded me why I read fiction: to be transported, completely and without hesitation, into the lives of strangers. It belongs on a shelf alongside Michael Ondaatje's best work.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In his bittersweet fourth novel, McCann chronicles the imperiled world of the Slovakian Roma (Gypsies, to their enemies) from World War II through the establishment of the Communist bloc. After the pro-Nazi Hlinkas drown the rest of her family, six-year-old Zoli Novotna escapes with her grandfather to join another camp of Roma, where she discovers a gift for singing. At her grandfather's urging, she also breaks a Romani taboo and learns to read and write. She later becomes involved with poet Martin Strnsk, and her poems, which draw on her Roma heritage, are promoted by Martin as the harbinger of a 'literate proletariat' and a new Gypsy literature. Her growing fame, however, betrays her when the Communist government appropriates her work for its project to assimilate the Roma. Condemned by her own people and, as a Roma, alienated from the Slovaks, Zoli finds her way to a new home. The narrative switches between third- and first-person, though it is strongest when narrated by Zoli. McCann does a marvelous job of portraying a marginalized culture, and his world of caravans, music and family is rich with sensual detail." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"McCann artfully weaves Romani traditions, superstitions and expressions into a vibrant tableau, vividly rendering Zoli's conflicting urges to flee and stay....Mesmerizing."
by John Leonard, Harper's,
"Yes, the new year's just beginning, but it's hard to imagine a better novel being published in the months to come than Zoli."
by Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly,
"McCann's lyrical fourth novel is as rich and sensuous and loamy as freshly turned soil....McCann's research and lustrous prose bring Zoli vibrantly alive. Grade: A-"
by Library Journal,
"McCann has an affinity for outcasts and the homeless, and the depiction of Zoli's journey through forests and farmlands toward the Austrian border is forceful."
"McCann vividly animates an insular culture different from our own. Full of dense descriptions of everything from the intricately carved caravans to the Gypsy women whose hair is sewn with gold coins, McCann tells a very convincing and very powerful story about the strength of community and the burden of exile."
by Christian Science Monitor,
"The way Zoli finally gets to Paris, and what she does once she reaches her goal give a lovely sweetness to the coda. And by that time both she and McCann have earned it."
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