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The Time In Between

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The Time In Between

July 25th, 2008  · Rachel

Rachel reviews "The Time In Between", an award winning novel by David Bergen. A

(Fiction)Review of "The Time In Between"
an award winning novel by David Bergen

The 2005 winner of the Giller Prize, David Bergen’s novel, “The Time In Between” is about a Vietnam veteran, Charles Boatman, who returns to Vietnam to face some of the demons that have haunted him for decades after serving there. When he goes missing, his son and daughter, Jon and Ada, travel to Vietnam in search of him. While Jon soon emotionally abandons the search for his father, Ada continues to follow any clue that might lead to her father, becoming entangled in the lives of those she meets. The novel unfolds, moving between past and present, father and daughter, as the two main characters each weave their way along an emotional journey. The strength of the tie between father and daughter is developed in the section of the book covering the years prior to Charles' return to Vietnam and then as Ada gains insight into her father's trauma as she continues her search for him.

Click "Read Full Story" to continue reading the review of "The Time In Between".

David Bergen incoporates a colorful collection of characters into his novel. Particularly memorable is Yen, a young street kid, apparently living on his wit and cunning, who follows Ada around, practicing his English on her, and attempting to be her guide and resource person. He is a believable character who I was not sure weather I sould feel sorry for, or be frustrated with, and congured up images of any number of street kids that I have seen in my travels. Similarly, a couple members of the expatriate community develop as believable characters. One of whom is present in Vietnam as a missionary, convinced that the Vietnamese people are aimless children in need of his guidence, the other, his wife who struggles with the culture and struggles with depression as she pines for the comfortable suburban life that she left behind.

In contract, however, the character development of Hoang Vu, another prominent character, is lacking. As an artist and man of few words, with whom Ada becomes sexually involved, he is portrayed as possessing great intelligence and wisdom, yet a clear image of him never truly evolves in my mind. It is through him, however, that Ada becomes entangled in the Vietnamese culture.

As the Giller Prize is awarded for the best Canadian novel or short story collection, I was hoping for more from this book. While it was an enjoyable read, if felt like it lacked a clear direction. The first half of the book developed as one would expect, with the story of Charles Boatman's struggles after the war and eventual return to Vietnam to face his demons. However, after Ada uncovers the truth behind what happened to her father, there is still another half of the book. The remaining pages are spent with Ada rambling around in Vietnam, involved with Hoang Vu. While it was entertaining reading, it's purpose was lost on me.

My criticisms of this book are probably a reflection of my literary ignorance as it has been critically acclaimed by many. In addition to the Giller Prize, The Time In Between also won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, received a coveted starred review in the Kirkus Reviews magazine, and was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

In addition to The Time In Between, David Bergen is the author of four other works: Sitting Opposite My Brother (1993), a collection of short fiction, was a finalist for the Manitoba Book of the Year; A Year of Lesser (1996) which won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and was a New York Times Notable Book; See the Child (1999); The Case of Lena S. (2002) won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, and was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for English language fiction as well as the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.

Learn more about "The Time In Between" at Amazon. (Amazon link has other reviews and pertinent information).

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Updated: 26-Jul-2008
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