Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Center of the World by Andreas Steinhöfel: The Review

(In which I list the reasons why I can’t get enough of this book.)


I have been spouting portions of this book for the last two consecutive entries in this blog. And there’s a reason. This book was just amazing. I think so because:

1. It deals about an unusual family.

Phil’s homosexuality has been known to his family since he was nine after he passed the fairy test and they accept and love him for he is. It actually reminds me of a Glee episode.

Phil himself doesn’t care of how other people will see him, which is a good manifestation of self-acceptance. The novel describes in detail how Phil deals with his unusual family – he’s never known his father, his mother was the town whore, his sister was perceived as an animal whisperer and a botany enthusiast which translates to being a complete freak and they’ve got two lesbian lovers as closes friends – and how he loves all of them all the same.

The unusualness lies in the presentation of a somehow normally complex social unit. There isn’t a perfect or a normal family – the one without issues. Or maybe I’m the only one who thinks so because I have a complicated clan as well. But this type of characters brings the story a closer-to-life feel.

2. It has other forms of complexities.

Aside from the basic character backgrounds, the story is also filled with psychological and philosophical episodes. Each character is presented through the lenses of Phil and the development occurs with the help of his memory and his connection with every important aspect in his life – both living and inanimate. One striking factor is his conversation with his doll, Paleiko and the usual dose of philosophical advices and lectures from Mr. Handel.

3. It’s about one of the most cliché topics in fiction – love.

The story revolves around human relationships and Phil’s love for the people who matter – his mother Glass, his twin sister Dianne, their closest friends Tereza and Pascal, his bestfriend Kat and his boyfriend Nicholas. But it’s not just a story about love. Juxtaposed with it is the realization of one’s self as well as defiance and betrayal.

4. I love the center of Phil’s world.

We all have different centers of our world. A person’s world might compose of just a thing, a person or a group of people. It might be a place. If one’s too obsessed the place or thing might also be positioned in the center of something, say, a house. Okay, that’s weird.

But the center of Phil’s world is worth the title. And I share the same thoughts as his.

Sometimes it was easy to escape from reality. I could totally cut it our for days, sometimes for weeks on end. The books I borrowed transported me into adventures that were as vivid and different form one another as the tales of the Thousand and One Nights, and always had the same effect: they enveloped me like a protective cloak and hid me from the Little People, from the world out there. This was the reason I loved the library. For me it was the center of the world.
– page 134
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