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Zoli

by

Zoli Cover

 

Staff Pick

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.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A unique love story, a tale of loss, a parable of Europe, this haunting novel is an examination of intimacy and betrayal in a community rarely captured so vibrantly in contemporary literature.

Zoli Novotna, a young woman raised in the traveling Gypsy tradition, is a poet by accident as much as desire. As 1930s fascism spreads over Czechoslovakia, Zoli and her grandfather flee to join a clan of fellow Romani harpists. Sharpened by the world of books, which is often frowned upon in the Romani tradition, Zoli becomes the poster girl for a brave new world. As she shapes the ancient songs to her times, she finds her gift embraced by the Gypsy people and savored by a young English expatriate, Stephen Swann.

But Zoli soon finds that when she falls she cannot fall halfway-neither in love nor in politics. While Zoli's fame and poetic skills deepen, the ruling Communists begin to use her for their own favor. Cast out from her family, Zoli abandons her past to journey to the West, in a novel that spans the 20th century and travels the breadth of Europe.

Colum McCann, acclaimed author of Dancer and This Side of Brightness, has created a sensuous novel about exile, belonging and survival, based loosely on the true story of the Romani poet Papsuza. It spans the twentieth century and travels the breadth of Europe. In the tradition of Steinbeck, Coetzee, and Ondaatje, McCann finds the art inherent in social and political history, while vividly depicting how far one gifted woman must journey to find where she belongs.

Review:

"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.)

Review:

"McCann artfully weaves Romani traditions, superstitions and expressions into a vibrant tableau, vividly rendering Zoli's conflicting urges to flee and stay....Mesmerizing." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"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." John Leonard, Harper's

Review:

"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-" Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"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." Library Journal

Review:

"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." Booklist

Review:

"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." Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Colum McCann is the author of the highly acclaimed Songdogs and Fishing the Sloe-Black River, which received the Hennessey Award for Best First Fiction, Ireland's top literary honor. He lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

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.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
kasvilar, April 8, 2010 (view all comments by kasvilar)
Colum McCann continues to blow my socks off and break my heart. He must be a man possessed to inhabit so many characters.
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(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780812973983
Author:
McCann, Colum
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Journalists
Subject:
Europe
Subject:
Slovakia
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20080331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8 x 5.15 x 0.8 in 0.6 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Zoli Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812973983 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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 , "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.)
"Review" by , "McCann artfully weaves Romani traditions, superstitions and expressions into a vibrant tableau, vividly rendering Zoli's conflicting urges to flee and stay....Mesmerizing."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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-"
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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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