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The Names of Things by John Colman Wood

The Names of Things (edition 2012)

by John Colman Wood

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3721306,014 (3.95)2
Title:The Names of Things
Authors:John Colman Wood
Info:Ashland Creek Press (2012), Paperback, 276 pages
Collections:Your library, Read From Library

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The Names of Things by John Colman Wood



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When a chance discovery challenges everything an anthropologist understands of his wife's lingering illness and death, he returns to the African plains where their parting began. The journey is told through objective discourses on Dasse tribal mourning rituals contrasted with a narrative of the anthropologist's own thoughts and experiences.

This book left me thinking of John Banville's The Sea (Man Booker Prize 2005) because of the way the wording and cadence evoke a feeling of place, in this case the desert rather than the sea, and the sense of foreboding that overshadows the whole work. In both, the ending revelation is haunting in its finality.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am reviewing this as a Librarything Early Reviewer.
This text is the memoir(?) of an anthropologist who has lived with his artist wife/partner and has subsequently lost her through illness; he has been the sole carer during her drawn out end of life. He then returns to Africa where they have spent time together to take on a cathartic journey with the native peoples.
The book is not one that you can enjoy but if the intention is to give the reader the disjointed, detached feeling that the recently bereaved have then it works.
The main character's partner is never named although he is interested in the local names for the things around him.
There is no feeling of completion at the end of the book and I wonder if that is again deliberate.
It has taken me a long time to bring myself to read this fully as it is not a topic that I relish but having reached the end I cannot honestly find it within me to recommend it. ( )
  shushokan | Jan 28, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"The Names of Things" is a charming little novel. Simple and well-written. Information is revealed slowly. Who is the narrator - this unnamed man who seems to be grieving? Who is the boy who guides him? Who is the unnamed woman? Eventually, we discover that the man is an anthropologist who is returning to visit Africa after the death of his wife, a painter and a woman with her own secrets. Foreshadowing is dropped lightly into the book, but we learn most of the details through flashbacks to the couple's previous sojourn in Africa. It's beautiful and heartbreaking and tragic.

I suspect that the lack of names for people and places may displease some readers, but for me it was part of the book's charm and its message. The title is, after all, about names. And as we learn later in the book: "What he wanted remained unnamed, unsaid, because he didn't know what to say, and even if he did, he wouldn't know how." When he first arrived in Africa, a boy "taught him the names of things," but now he cannot name the thing that will save him, will make him whole. The reader travels with him as he tries to discover it.

The book is a quick read, but I recommend it for the patient reader. ( )
  HollyBeth | May 19, 2014 |
This novel is the story of an anthropologist who spent years with his artist wife studying tribes of northern Kenya. After her death he returns to the area and travels around areas they have known, remembering their life there and afterwards when they returned to academic life in the western world. The story moves from the present to the past and is interspersed with pages from his journal, all of which make it rather disconnected and jumpy. It's also a very reflective book as the anthropologist seeks to find peace with his life. I'm afraid it really wasn't my cup of tea. ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Apr 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Quietly contemplative story of a man living through the aftermath of his wife's long illness and death. I didn't *enjoy* it, exactly - too melancholy for that - but it was a moving read. I found the passages that moved back and forth between the present and the past a little disjointed, but it was well-written and intriguing.
  zmiya_san | Nov 11, 2013 |
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