Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Escape by Perihan Magden

Hard-edged crime fiction is what you will usually find me reading. Then a book like Escape comes along to remind me why I need to widen my interests.

An unnamed mother and daughter flee from an unspecified threat. For the daughter, living in hotel rooms around the world is the only life she has known. When the mother says danger is near, they escape, heading to the airport, taking only what will fit in backpacks. Whatever they accumulated during their stay they leave behind, baffling the hotel staff.

There is an underlying metaphor of the life of the mother and daughter in this book, Felix Salten's Bambi. The mother only calls her daughter Bambi or baby. Bambi is their Book of Prayer, their book of signs. The mother says "the dangers in Bambi are just like our own." If all you know of Bambi is the Disney film, get a copy of Salten's book. I did, and it is a brilliant framing device for the story.

Escape is narrated mainly by the daughter looking back at her life on the run. Interspersed with the daughter's narrative are first person observations from hotel staff and other outsiders. What they see and conclude are a dramatic contrast with the words of the daughter. Do we have a reliable or unreliable narrator?
Perihan Magden

With only 208 pages, I first thought that Escape was going to be a simple, straightforward story but I soon recognized that it is a deceptively complex,  "slow reveal" novel where the reader is engaged in putting pieces of a puzzle together. The daughter's reminiscences and those of the outsiders are not told linearly so that events in one chapter will link to actions in later or previous chapters.  This shifting interpretation of events contributes to an active and satisfying read.

There is crime and there is mystery in Escape but I wouldn't call it a crime or mystery novel. It is more   an exploration of a strange, perhaps (or not) abusive relationship, a love between a mother and daughter so isolated, so encapsulated that the outside world doesn't have a chance of breaking in.

I enjoyed Escape, so much so that I read it twice and skimmed it once. Questions remain, there isn't a tidy resolution, but it is a very satisfying read and a book that I recommend.

Escape was translated from the Turkish by Kenneth Daken. I'm not sure how you evaluate a translation if you haven't read a book in the original language but for me, the language in Escape was natural and flowed. It didn't come across as stilted or with unusual word choices.

I received Escape as a review copy and it is available from Amazon in print and Kindle.