Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

And Now For the Adults: The Radiant City

I am afraid to write this review, afraid that it's meaning will slip through my grasp and fall flat. I have to head this post with a disclaimer that I am extremely fond of The Radiant City's author, Lauren B. Davis, even though we have never met in person. I reached out to her on SheWrites, and we became pen pals. After a while I felt embarrassed that I had never read her books, and only her lovely blog. I am glad that I got to know her a little bit before reading The Radiant City, because I might have been too intimidated by her excellence!

Aw shucks, Léna, she is saying.

This is a richly textured, finely crafted novel, about the festering wounds of war.

Written in the third person and in the present tense, we follow Matthew Bowles, war correspondent and journalist from a hospital in Hebron to the streets of Paris,the City of Lights, the Radiant City, where he hopes he can lose himself. He has been "rescued" by an agent who gets him a big advance to write about his experiences as a war correspondent in Bosnia, Rwanda, Hebron and more . . . but Matthew struggles to do this through drink and post-traumatic stress and meeting up with other "veterans" who share his darkness.

Davis brilliantly uses the backdrop of subterranean Paris as a map for his tortured soul. She weaves in another narrative, from the point of view of Saida, a Lebanese woman who owns a small café in Matthew's neighborhood with a son, father and brother to take care of. She has wounds of her own.

It is also an ode to the path of the artist, the writer.

"You know what Katherine Anne Porter said?" Matthew says to Saida, after having disappeared into his interior world for days, trying to write his experience and failing. "I'm paraphrasing, but basically she said that human life is pure chaos, and the job of the artist - the only thing he's good for, incidentally - is to work that confusion into order. No one understands what's happening to them as it's happening, right? So writers have to remember for other people. We have to sift through experience until our disparate selves are reconciled, and by sharing it, offer the same reconciliation to others . . . I think it's bullshit." p181

It's not bullshit, Davis wants us to know. And I'm glad, because my eyes stung with tears at times: so wrapped up was I in the atmosphere of color and pain that Davis depicted. Obviously, I recommend this book without hesitation and am giving it 5 stars on Good Reads!


  1. oo! This sounds like a good read! It reminds me of something I read once about turning chaos into cosmos. :)

  2. So THAT's why I love books that carry this theme so much! ;D

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