Monday, November 11, 2013

Mercury Under My Tongue by Sylvain Trudel

Mercury Under My Tongue by Sylvain Trudel, translated by Sheila Fischman

Review by Lauren

copy for review; all opinions are my own

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Official Summary: Frederick Langlois could be that geeky 17-year-old found in every high school -- the one who closely clutches his poem-filled notebook, who feels a bit too deeply, who's just a little too old for his years. But Frederick isn't in high school. He's in a hospital ward with other critically ill adolescents, dying of bone cancer. "Mercury Under the Tongue" chronicles his short stay there, from his distant but friendly relationship with his therapist through comic moments in the ward and his emergent friendships with other teenage patients. Some survive, others are lost, and at the end, Frederick must make a final reckoning with himself and his family, one that is at once dispassionate and deeply felt.

Review: While not a long book, Mercury Under My Tongue contains a lot of deep thoughts and questions about life, which sometimes makes it a difficult book to get through.

Personally, I love books that are translated from another language. This book comes from Canadian author, Sylvain Trudel, who lives in Montreal. Sheila Fischman translated it from the original French-Canadian to the English I read it in. Despite it being a foreign novel, it doesn't deal too much with the location. Frederick is dying of bone cancer, so therefore, the entire book takes place in the hospital. He interacts with family who visit (but no friends because he does not want them to see him like this), a therapist, and most importantly, the other children who come to the ward.

One of the saddest parts of this book is that not all of the kids stay on the ward. For Frederick, there is no hope. He is dying and he knows that day will come. Some of the other people that share his ward, or even his room, are not as dire. They find ways to help them get better and allow them to live, to continue to grow older and live life. Things like this seem to be the reason that Frederick writes poetry. He is expressing his thoughts, his anger, his sadness, in these short lines.

A poem that I really liked and thought I'd share-

is anywhere at all,
between the tip of a nose and the end of the world;
and soon,
is any time at all,
between now and the night.
-pg. 10

These type of poems are included throughout the book, and I liked a lot of them. They make you think about your own life, which is great.

However, my main problem with the book is that it does read slow sometimes. Like I said in the beginning, it's not a very long book. But the entire book deals with Frederick slowly dying, and therefore, the book seems to mimic the process. Nothing moves too quickly; time seems to be in limbo. I don't know if it was intentional on the author's part or not, but it seems to fit the overall story.

While I do wish the book would move quicker in places, I did find this to be an interesting look at a teenager who knows his life has a limit, and that it's coming soon.


Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

I've never actually read a book translated from another language. While, except Crime and Punishment, ugh.

P.S. I'm giving away a $100 credit towards a pretty new dress! I'd love for you to enter.

Brandi Kosiner said...

Glad the poems were good, but sorry the pacing wasn't as good

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) said...

I don't think I'm quite ready to have my heart broken so mercilessly. I still haven't recovered from The Fault In Our Stars. I'm glad it's such a profound read, and even more that it's a translation.
Lovely review.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

This is one of those books that I run from because it is going to be so emotional but yet enjoy it when I do find myself reading it. I'm curious about this one especially since it is a translation. Brilly review!

Andrea @The Bookish Babes said...

What a lovely poem! I'm really glad you were moved by the story, and enjoyed it despite the pace.
Nice review!

Candace said...

This does sound interesting. And sad. But good. I think the slowness would bother me since I have trouble with having patience, but otherwise it sounds great!

Erika Sorocco said...

Wow! This sounds powerful. I feel like the subject matter would bring me down; but it sounds intriguing.


Tracy Terry said...

Though not adverse to books that have been translated I do worry that they are not always well done, that sometimes things can be lost in the translation. This sounds good though, thanks for the recommendation.

L-Diggitty said...

Oh my gosh, this sounds like a tear-jerker... I don't know if I can bring myself to read it. :(

Tanja - Tanychy said...

This is the first time I hear that Canadian book is been translated. I mean it's logical because they used French-Canadian, but I wan't familiar with that. This one sounds interesting and it deals with some serious topics. Great review, Mag :)

Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings said...

Sounds like an interesting yet depressing read. I am not up for a dying book right now.... However, that poem was amazing. Very insightful. Thanks for sharing that!

Aylee said...

Woah, this would be so depressing! I don't think I've ever read a novel in which the main character is dying slowly of a disease. Actually, I don't think I've ever read a book that has been translated from a different language either. But there's a first time for everything!

Lauren Elizabeth said...

This sounds like it could be a very depressing story, but there seems to be a lot of beauty in the story too. I love that poem you shared. I am curious to give this a try! Thanks for your lovely review :-)

Rachel said...

Wonderful review, Lauren. I don't think I could read this. I'd be a sobbing mess at the end. Just reading your review breaks my heart. Life is so unfair. :(