March 31, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 95  

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Eagles and Angels a successful first novel

Eagles and Angels
By: Juli Zeh
Anansi Press
329 pages, $22.95

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Eagles and Angels by Juli Zeh is an intriguing book.

This is Zeh’s first foray into novel writing. Ofterntimes, an author’s first novel is either a massive flop or a wonderful success — and a successful first novel has an originality and freshness that is rare.

Eagles and Angels grabs the reader’s attention through an odd premise. The main character, Max, is in the midst of a drug-induced stupor after his girlfriend Jessie shoots herself while on the phone with him. Clara, an ambitious PhD psychology student, decides Max’s condition is interesting enough for her to write her doctoral thesis on, and she commences on a mission to get his story out of him.

Max’s life quickly deteriorates as he abandons everything but his cocaine, and the book focuses on what led up to his current state.

Zeh’s book was originally published in German in 2001. It was released in 2003 in English, translated by Christine Slenczka. The writing does not seem to lose anything in the translation. It is absorbing, engaging and smooth.

Max’s careless abandon and overwhelming sorrow is portrayed in such a clear light that it almost makes the reader feel depressed; but the promise of finding out what led him there keeps the pages turning.

The explanation is long and complicated, but also extremely entertaining. Max’s job as a lawyer with an international law firm is as relevant to the story as Jessie’s druglord father. As his story comes into focus, Zeh articulates a grim commentary on the society he lives in.

In the midst of this complicated story, the simplicity of Max’s devotion to Jessie is a stark contrast. He wonders why his dog is always so happy to see him, yet he gave the same unquestioning adoration to Jessie when she was alive.

The book is well written, contains perplexing and entertaining characters and dabbles with the elusive worlds of drug trafficking and international law, while telling the story through the eyes of a suicidal, drugged out man overtaken with grief.

Give it a read — you will not be disappointed.



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