Friday, April 4, 2014

Julie's Review: The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel

Author: Magdalena Zyzak
Series: None
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 288
Obtained: Publisher
Genre:  Humor, Folklore
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A politically humorous debut that was hard for me to connect with.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? just get it at the library
Summary: Set in the quaint (though admittedly backward) fictional nation of Scalvusia in 1939, The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel follows the exploits of a young swineherd with romantic delusions of grandeur. Desperate to attract the voluptuous Roosha, the Gypsy concubine of the local boot-and-shoe magnate, Barnabas and his short-legged steed Wilhelm get embroiled in a series of scandals and misadventures, as every attempt at wooing ends in catastrophe. After the mysterious death of an important figure in the community, a witch-hunt ensues, and a stranger falls from the sky. Barnabas begins to see the terrible tide of history turning in his beloved hometown. The wonderfully eccentric supporting cast includes a priest driven mad by a fig tree, a gang of louts who taunt our reluctant hero at every turn, and a dim-witted vagabond with a goat for a wife. Even as her characters brush up against one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century, Magdalena Zyzak's humor and prose delight in the absurdities of the human animal.  

Review: The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel is a quirky modern day folk-story about a young man coming into his own while his country and the world around him begins to fall apart. Barnabas is a smart young man that no one takes seriously because of his status within the community. It doesn't seem to bother him much except when it comes to his object of affection, Roosha.

Among the humor, is a story of a country at the crossroads of choosing their future. They are stuck between the past and the uncertain future. The town of Odolechka demonstrates on a small scale with the inhabitants. It's hard to believe that this is Ms. Zyzak's first novel because her writing is lush and descriptive. Her use of humor is unlike any other book I've read. It is used in a way that not only makes you laugh but it makes you think. It takes true talent to get the use of humor correct in the first try.

While it might not have resonated with me, I think those who enjoy "dramedy" books, will thoroughly enjoy this one. I will definitely look for Ms. Zyzak's books in the future to see what else she does with her talent. 



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