The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa

Set in contemporary Angola, The Book of Chameleons is populated with characters whose stories never quite settle…It is some pages in before you realise that the narrator – rather charming, witty as he is – is a lizard, living on Felix Ventura’s living room wall. Felix trades in an usual commodity – he sells pasts. If you don’t like yours, he can come up with an entirely new one for you, full of better memories and with a complete lineage. This is a book about the landscape of memory, its inconsistencies and its randomness.

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4 Comments

  1. jadebeecroft

     /  September 23, 2009

    It might have been because I read The Book of Chameleons straight after a really really brilliant book (I find the way I feel about books is often affected my previous reads) but I didn’t rate it at all. I found it very boring actually – both the plot and the two-dimensional characters.

    Perhaps it was because it was from the point of view of the chameleon, but I couldn’t get interested in the main characters at all. They were just presented so blandly. Looking back now, just a week after finishing it, and I can barely even remember enough about the story to write a comment on it.

    I hated the short chapters because they made it feel really stop-start, which was maybe another reason I couldn’t get into it. Every time it became vaguely interesting, it came to the end of the chapter, there was a blank page (Was that just my copy? What was that all about?!), and any momentum was completely lost. There also seemed to be huge swathes of detail missing – it justed skimmed over a lot of events.

    It reminded me a bit of I am a Cat, by Soseki Natsume, which is another novel told from the popint of view of an animal observing the humans he lives with, and is also dull and tedious.

    On the bright side, at least the short chapters meant I’d finished it quickly!

    Interested to hear what others thought??? Was it a good meeting?

    Reply
  2. michelebbc

     /  September 22, 2009

    Hi Sarah
    I tried to get it from the library but it wasn’t available so went straight on to Frankenstein and the David Lodge book. I’ve got a soft spot for Gecko’s after been addicted to Gex playstation games so will add it to the list!

    Reply
  3. Hi Michele – I really enjoyed this book, (having a vested interest because I nominated it!) but I think some people liked it less than I did.

    The gecko narrator was fresh and an interesting point of view (on several levels!), and I enjoyed the short snappy structure (possibly because of the contrast with the other things I have been reading recently.)

    I can’t claim to have entirely got all the nuances, and am thinking of sourcing my own copy on ebay…

    Did you get a chance to read it, Michele? If so, what did you think?

    Reply
  4. michelebbc

     /  September 21, 2009

    Interesting review in the Guardian. How was the meeting??

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/jun/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview26

    Reply

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