Polylingual novels = critical acclaim? It certainly seems so. It also seems like I can't help picking them up like a case of head lice in a pre-school classroom.
I was less-than-thrilled with the the multiple languages used in A History of Love and Stones From the River, and I hardly noticed them in Eat Pray Love. Maybe because a dear friend of mine is Arabic, and I have grown used to hearing the music of an ancient language in my daily life that I really loved the Farsi that was woven throughout the text of House of Sand and Fog. Rolling the consonants and vowels around in my mouth, saying the words aloud - it seemed to soften the narrative somehow; to slow down the plot train as it charged toward an inevitably climactic end. It was beautiful.
Part crazy love story, part commentary on inhumane bureaucracy, House of Sand and Fog is a deeply sad story about a small group of people who are all just trying to find their own little bit of happiness and security in this world.
I wish I had read this with my book club rather than on my own, since I know it would foster a great deal of discussion - Should the Behrani family have sold the house back to Kathy at the price they purchased it? Was Kathy right in her indignation despite having ignored multiple notices that the city was claiming her house? As a marriage nears its end, at what point does an affair cease to do more harm than good? There was no way to neatly tie up the story. People hurt other people, sometimes irrevocably, or by accident. Sometimes people misunderstand each other, and sometimes it IS possible for me to be right without you being wrong.
If you've read it, I'd love your thoughts - your answers to the questions I've posed, and feel free to pose some of your own...
See also: House of Sand and Fog, the 2003 film starring Jennifer Connelly and Sir Ben Kingsley.