100 YEARS OF VICISSITUDEÂ by Andrez Bergen, John Hunt Publishing, p/b, Â£8.99, www.johnhuntpublishing.com
Reviewed by Katy Oâ€™Dowd
â€˜First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departure from the mortal coil. I recall a gun was involved, pressed up against my skull, and a loud explosion followed.’
So starts Andrez Bergenâ€™s 100 Years of Vicissitude, the premise of which is this â€“ a Geisha guides a rather dodgy man through the spirit world. Piqued your interest yet?
Well, add into the mix some multi-layered writing, numerous pop culture references, the odd history lesson and a cracking great story and you just about start to scratch the surface of this highly original book.
Wolram Deaps has recently shrugged off his mortal coil and meets Kohana in the next realm. Is it limbo? Possibly, but it doesn’t really matter. What follows is a lot of her past rather than his, leading the reader to suspect that he has taken up the mantle of leading her into the light instead of the other way around as you might expect.
They are two highly likeable lead characters – no matter that one is certainly a murderer – he in a smoking jacket with a plummy accent, she resplendent in beautiful silks and sashes. In fact, it is very nearly a love story. I missed many of the Japanese references, picking up on the more Western ones, but again it doesn’t really matter as the writing style is so ornately captivating and the story so more-ish.
The shifts in periods were very well done, and at no point is the reader left scratching their head in bemusement as can happen with other time lapse stories. It was wonderful to read something a bit different, after all, how many books have you read centered around Japanese culture? Maybe you have, but for me it was a bit like taking a holiday somewhere I wouldnâ€™t usually consider going. Perhaps this book pulled me out of a comfortable rut.
But there is so much more to 100 Years of Vicissitude, and I feel like I’ve only peeled back a tiny section of the marvels therein. I suspect I’ll read it again as it seems to me to be one of those books that will keep giving with each visit.