This is my second novel by Michal Viewegh. The first one was Biowife ( that is how I assume it will be translated in English eventually but the original title in Czech is Biomanželka) and I will review that one some other time. I must admit that I actually liked Biomanželka better. Oh, no! This is not going to motivate you to read this review, is it?
Well, I hope it won’t set you off because I do have some things to say about this novel. The fact that I prefer another of his works doesn't mean I didn't like Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia. Not at all. This novel is brilliantly written. It is also full of sophisticated humour this writer is known for. Moreover, it explains the frustrations of the writing process in an ingenious way. I do think writers will relate to this one.
It is a novel that is just as much about the process of writing as it is about the characters in it. There is something so honest about the way Michal writes. Just a few words on the author himself. Michal Viewegh is a bestselling Czech writer. He also happens to be one of the most popular Czech writers at the moment. Not without reason for he has talent. Nobody can deny him that.
Let's back straight to the point. What is it that I didn't like about this novel? Well, it is quite simple. It did not move me on a personal level. I can admire it only as a work of literature. It definitely is a work of literature; it is not just any book. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I admire it both on intellectual and on philosophical level, but I (personally) found it hard to relate to it on a more personal level. The reason for that I believe lies in the way the story is written.
The concept of this book is fantastic. The way it examines the connection between writing and literature is captivating. However, Beate in one sense becomes a tool and that is when she stops feeling like a real person. What makes this story so intellectually interesting is paradoxically what robs one of its most important characters from its humanity. I wonder if the writer saw this coming. He must have had. Perhaps Beate is sacrificed so that this novel could have its sophisticated narrative and structure? I can see why he needed to do that, but I can't say I like it.
You see, I've grown rather attached to Beate. I don't like the way she is used. I don't like what happens to her. So, maybe I did relate to her on a more personal level? I did. And then she slipped. It is like losing contact with a friend. It pissed me off. Does her ending make sense in the context of the novel? I don't think it does. I think this character is just as much a tool for the writer of this novel as she is for the protagonist of this novel. Now, the problem with turning one of central characters into just a tool is the loss of credibility for the novel. So, my feelings are totally mixed about this one.
Would I recommend reading this novel? Yes, I would. It is a very good novel. For me it wasn't a life changing one, but there is no doubt that it has its literary merits.