DBC impressed more than just me with his debut a few years ago – Vernon God Little. His unique style and wit helped him wrangle up the Booker Prize. No short order for a first novel. So along comes Ludmilla’s Broken English (a book I purchased at Chapters off of their $2 table – maybe that should have been my first clue).
The book centers around three main characters, Ludmilla, a young, pretty Russian girl trying to earn money for her poor family any way she can, and Blair and Bunny, recently separated conjoined twins, at different emotional places with the prospect of being on their own.
It’s obvious that the characters will unite, but Pierre takes his sweet time in making it happen. Along the way the characters have to deal with crooked landlords, a civil war, health-care privatisation officers, cherry flavoured synthetic drugs and crooked mail-order bride web-site operators (like there are any other kinds).
Pierre’s grasp of the English language and I suppose the human condition, is at times surprising, hilarious, emotionally charged and frustrating. There were entire paragraphs I had to re-read and still had no idea what the guy was talking about. His genius really shone through, however, in the conversations Ludmilla had with her family and other Ublis. It was if their speech was translated into English, then to Russian and back again. Quite entertaining. Otherwise, the book didn’t offer much in terms of plot, the reader identifies what’s going to happen early on, then waits for three quarters of the book for it to finally happen. When it finally does, it’s more of a relief than a surprise.
After being quite impressed with DBC’s debut, his second novel left a lot to be desired. Here’s hoping the third book’s the charm. Maybe something was lost in translation…