Friday, 7 May 2010

Foreign Language Friday: Tell Me What You See

Dear Blog,
Foreign Language Friday returns with Tell Me What You See by Zoran Drvenkar.

First published in: Germany

Original title: Sag Mir, Was du Siehst
Translated by: Chantal Wright

Summary (from the blurb): Berlin. The dead of night. Sixteen-year-old Alissa and her best friend Evelin make their secret Christmas pilgrimage to Alissa's father's grave. In the graveyard, Alissa falls through thick snow into an underground crypt. Searching for a way out, she discovers something else: out of the lid of a small coffin coils a strange black plant. Drawn closer, Alissa sees its roots embedded in a young child's heart. This chance encounter sets off a chain of nightmarish events that throw her life into turmoil. Haunted by angels, stalked by her ex-boyfriend, only with Evelin's help can Alissa reclaim her sanity and discover the truth about her frightening new gift.

Review: I rarely read such creepy books.  Apart from dystopic novels where civilisation collapses, I don't tend to read creepy books.  Well, the apocalypse isn't  creepy in the same way that this is.  I've never read any Darren Shan or anything like that.  I read the chapter of The Green Mile where Edward Delacroix gets fried when I was 11.  I may have mentioned this before.  I was intrigued by the dark world of horror fiction and that sort of put me off.  Anyway.  Though I guess Tell Me What You See isn't a horror novel, it is,  a somewhat gothic chiller. I think it ought to begin with, "it was a dark and stormy night....*cue thunder bolt* BWAHAHAHA!" And it certainly begins with the sort of situation you would expect to find in a B-movie: two girls alone at night in the dark, creeping around in a graveyard.  But Zoran Drvenkar writes it so well, you don't even stop to laugh at the slight cliche.  It's genuinely creepy!  That's just the beginning.

The story alternates points of view between several of the characters-Alissa, the main character, Evelin, her best friend, Simon, Alissa's ex-boyfriend, Robert, Alissa's stepfather, the angels, and Nina, Evelin's lover.  In general I like books that do this, but alas alack more often than not they didn't sound incredibly individual.  The only real difference in the writing from Simon's point of view and Robert's point of view, for example,  is that Simon swears much more.  Oh well.  It's not that the writing wasn't gripping-it was-and it wasn't that the characters were 2-dimensional -they weren't-, but when it was told in the first person that's all it was: the first person.
However, alternating the points of view really did give different takes on what's happening: We're worried with Evelin about Alissa's sanity, and almost sympathetic to Simon when he's talking.  But then when Alissa is talking, everything going on in her head seems so real, and all we want to do when Simon appears is scream and run away.
My favourite character has to be Evelin.  She is the most awesome best friend and, in my opinion, the true hero of the story.  A), because she is always there for Alissa, and B) because of the ending, which I won't give away.

Summary: Tell Me What You See is all about friendship, obsession, death, loss, Berlin, ravens, love and angels. It's one of those "what more could you want?" books (more individuality in the characters, but...). 
Rating: 4.

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