Top critical review
Reading is not my hobby
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 17, 2011
As a disgruntled, pretentious college student, I am particularly hard to please. A Feather on the Breath of God is no different. I have generally mixed feelings about the book. It is divided into four sections, each about a different facet of the main character's life, ranging from her childhood to her lovers. It begins with an introduction of her silent, diligent father Chang. She describes him as someone almost cultureless, "not like everybody else." The entire house was cluttered with objects connected to Germany, her mother's homeland. The book progresses to the protagonist's experiences with her mother Christa, which I'll talk about later. After the protagonist leaves the household, the narrator tells of her passion within dance and her experiences with fate. The last section talks about her relationship with Vadim, from Russia with love.
For their intended purpose, the chapters do quite well at bringing their point across. The narrator has a poor relationship with her Chinese father. Her mother is a crazy psychopath. The narrator loves to dance. That's all fine and dandy. What wasn't so compelling was the repetitiveness of the second chapter. I felt the nostalgia and love the mother expressed about Germany was one-dimensional. It did not need excessive description, nor did it require a disproportionate number of examples of said trait. The writing portrayed the mother in a very negative light by the way she dominates the household and seemingly doesn't contribute anything but her heartfelt anger about all things not German. The author does a good job writing a realistic portrayal of complex characters, where there is still a bit of ambiguity. Nonetheless, I felt like the second chapter did not work for me, mostly due to its repetitive nature.
The last chapter was a surprising find. There are few novels which I am deeply immersed into a story enough to keep turning the page. This last chapter was one of those moments. It does a good job combining themes from the last three chapters into the protagonist's interaction with Vadim, who has said, "We don't have sex, we only have children." He says this only to be sardonic, with unusual idiosyncrasies and beliefs, such as his translation of the golden rule: "Today I am unlucky. Tomorrow it is someone else's turn to be unlucky." I believe the people around you say more about you than anything else, and I believe Vadim's unique personality and peculiar wisdom spoke volumes about her character. The character accounts were splendid, and that's what made the last chapter worthwhile. Still, the rest of the novel was pretty dull, so if you can stomach it, you'll find a great story in the final section of the book.