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Dear Thursday: Jose Saramago’s BLINDNESS [Book 2 of 2010]

Just to refresh your memories, I’ve decided to read a book week until my own book, 32 CANDLES, comes out on June 22, 2010. So here goes this week’s review of Jose Saramago’s BLINDNESS.

blindnessWhy I Decided To Read It: The movie trailer made me think, “Now that’s a book I would like to read!” But I totally didn’t want to see the movie. Has that ever happened to you?

What’s It About: It’s set in an unnamed city (which we’ll assume is in Portugal, since the author is Portuguese), in which a white-blindness is spreading like a contagious disease. To prevent the further spread of this strange blindness, Patient Zero and everyone with the sickness is interned in an old hospital. But the wife of the ophthalmologist (who tried to help Patient Zero after he was struck blind, only to be struck blind himself) accompanies him to the hospital, though she has not caught the blind sickness. But the disease keeps on spreading and society proceeds to break down.

What Makes It Different: It’s basically an apocalypse novel but with blindness. Original yet familiar.

What I Loved: Beautifully written and it illuminates the beauty of tragedy. Also it’s a rich study of how humans react to adversity. The Doctor’s Wife is an awesome character. The last few paragraphs made me cry, which was a little awkward, since I was at the mall when I finished it. The conflicts were sometimes big, sometimes anemic, which made the novel feel very real.

What I Didn’t Like: I almost stopped listening to the audiobook after it took almost an hour just to get to the part where we meet the main character, the Doctor’s Wife. Also, the author is very self-indulgent and goes off on a few tangents.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Keep it spare. I often have problems with jumbled and busy sentences. This book reminded me how beautiful spare language is and also that it’s often better to say a thing plainly than with flowery language.

What your characters do. Interestingly enough, no one in this book is giving proper names. It’s “the doctor” and “the doctor’s wife” and “the first blind man” and “the old man with the black eye patch.” Great conceit and it makes sure that the characters are defined by their actions and dialogue as opposed to their class. It also works nicely with the theme of blindness.

Original yet familiar. This book reminded me that there is novelty to be found in every situation, no matter how well-tread.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: People who like zombie novels, sociologists, opthamologists, people with heavy prescriptions like me (it’ll make you feel a lot better about your poor eyesight).

Family Members Who Might Like This: Angela G

Friends Who Might Like This: Brian V, Kyle W, Emily F, Carlos A, Kathy C-L, Jeff R, and Amy R.

Click on the pic to buy the book.