"THE ROOM ABOVE" BY LAURA HERGANE

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 Under: Book Reviews




Laura is a wonderful writer, in her own way; you can tell the use of language is of huge importance to her, and is more the point than any other aspect of her writing – she uses interesting prose for its own sake.  Laura is of Eastern European origin, and the English transcription of her work perhaps still needs some work.  Don’t get me wrong – clearly highly educated, she has a hugely proficient, eloquent vocabulary, and her grammar is of the highest standard; only, perhaps, her phrasing loses a touch in translation.  Yet, at the same time, this style of writing (almost giving it a thick, engaging accent) adds a particular charm to the work - she can express herself in more colourful metaphor – and, for the most part, adds rather than takes away from the writing.  I couldn’t help thinking that the book would probably read better in its original language.

“The Room Above” tells an intriguing story of a young girl who flees Romania’s oppressive dictatorial regime in the 1980s, for a new life of freedom in another country.  Freedom is everything in this book – freedom of thought, of speech, of movement, of socialization, underpins the entire theme and every metaphor within it, and it certainly gives a sense of what life must have been like in a dictatorship which treats defectors as traitors.  Some time into her new life, Dara is asked to participate in a strange and intriguing project: to enter a “room” in a university building and retrieve a young man who has gone “missing”, somewhere inside it.  If that sounds a little incomprehensible, that is the intent – the room is unnatural, and is perceived differently by all who enter.  It is an enigma, apparently without any concept of physical space or time, and the obvious question of how somebody can “disappear” in a room is the whole premise of this artistically composed book.  Its ambiguity is drawn out and does start to become a little frustrating, but, again, that is the point.  When Dara finally enters the room, after intensive NASA-reminiscent training, she is draped in such state-of-the-art equipment that you don’t know if this is going to turn out to be a science-fiction story, paranormal investigation, psychological horror or perhaps a combination of these.  Is the room an inter-dimensional portal?  Is it a dynamic, living being which changes continuously?  Perhaps a mind-bending force, which manipulates the mental perception of the person within the room?  Or, is the whole premise of this book simply a metaphor for the fluidity and uniqueness of the human mind?  When the actual truth is revealed, without intending to spoil it in any way, it is more mundane than most of this, yet in many respects more satisfying, telling a story, rather than a simple tale. 

Laura likes words and uses a lot of them.  She analyzes every action, dialogue and feeling comprehensively – artistically, metaphorically and comprehensively – from every conceivable cognitive angle.  It is nice to read someone who takes such a keen interest in her writing – you can tell she is an author of the type who agonizes over the best word to use, over and over again, and this ethic deserves huge credit.  I think, perhaps, for the English-speaking market, a slight reconstruction of the prose is necessary, but then again, I find it hard to imagine how this would improve a book into which Laura already seems to have put her heart and soul, and hate the idea of changing her wonderful embellishment of language.  For this reason, I am a little torn in this respect – I wonder if it is just too creative for such a plain language as ours.  Still, whatever your first tongue is, I think you’ll enjoy it.


In : Book Reviews 


Tags: laura-hergane  romania  oppression  regime  dictatorship  fiction 
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