This is one of those books that starts and doesn’t immediately grab you. Like an album that needs repeated listening to ‘grow on you’ the Journey to the end of the night starts and goes straight into the action of war without really establishing much of a relationship between the main character Ferdinand Bardamu and the reader.
Sometimes that jerky fell can be as a result of it being a translated work but here you get the feeling it is more a deliberate style.
Bullet points between pages 3 – 94
* The story starts with Ferdinand and a friend arguing in a café about patriotism. In a fit of provocation he runs after a marching troop of soldiers and ends up joining up
* The story moves to the First World War where he discovers that he is a coward and afraid and his dislike and distrust of generals and authority figures emerges
* After being given a medal and sent back for some time to recuperate to Paris he meets an American Red Cross worker Lola who stirs and interest for him in the States
* After walking in a park and seeing a deserted shooting gallery Ferdinand had a fit of fear and starts shouting that everybody is going to be shot and ends up in a mental hospital
* Lola decides after a conversation about the war that he is a coward and that seems to be the end of that
* As the war starts to slip towards its end Ferdinand ends up in a relationship with a young prostitute, Musyne, who sings for the troops and as his jealousy mounts she leaves him
* He fails to get recalled because he is still below par and is sent to another hospital and there comes across a patriotic and confident doctor who thinks he is improving and allows him a visit from his mother who disappoints him with her complete belief in the doctors diagnosis
If you get the feeling that this is all stops and starts, just from my bullet points, then that is the way the book is flowing at the moment. There are no chapter headings and there is no contents panel to chart the development of the story. I’m hoping that things will improve a bit tomorrow…