The American

the americanI’m not sure I would’ve picked this book up had I not wanted to read it before potentially seeing the George Clooney film.  Not that I need to read a book before seeing a movie, but I like to – and I heard there were significant differences, so…

I’m very glad I did pick this book up.  It’s a little cool at the beginning – you may struggle to get into the prose over the first fifteen pages or so – but once you slow yourself down and get into the groove of the novel, it is infinitely rewarding.

The plot, such as it is, doesn’t really pick up until the last quarter of the novel (at which point it spins out so fast it makes your head spin at how quickly it happens) – but that’s not why you read this book.  Signor Farfalla, our mostly unnamed main character (he also provides us with Edmund at some point…), is an arms specialist.  He alters guns and ammo for assassins.  He is very good at what he does.

He has taken up residence in a small town in Italy for (what he decides is) his last job.  Most of the novel is spent with Farfalla working on the gun, interacting with the residents of the town, falling in love with a young college student… and thinking.  He is – as an intelligent man in his position would undoubtedly be – quite philosophical.  That’s what the book is really about – its looking at life and the things we accumulate.  The way we live.  The way the world (history, religion, life itself) really WORKS.  The book is infinitely quotable and is the sort of novel you want to read on a slightly cool morning with a cup of tea or coffee.

It moves slowly and, at the end of things, is really little more than an extended monologue by Farfalla (with the interruptions of a few others – Clara and the priest were both excellent secondary characters).  But I didn’t mind that, at all.  When the action picks up, near the end, it was surprising and swift and you could feel Farfalla simply reacting, not trying to do anything else.  He was trying to survive and in order to survive, you can’t really THINK but you just have to GO.  The end was sad, too – The last paragraph, the last line – sad.  I felt for Farfalla, terribly.

Rating: 5 out of 5.  This was an excellent diversion.  I really cannot think of anything I didn’t like about this book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and, finishing it in the breezy early autumn cool of the morning today, I was purely happy to have read such a novel.

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