A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

eBook - 2013
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Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, c2013
ISBN: 9780307362643
Branch Call Number: 813/.6 23
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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Apr 11, 2021

This is one tremendous book! Beautifully written, this novel is set in Chechnya during its two devastating conflicts with Russia in the 1990s and first decade of this century. It follows an 8 year-old girl whose parents are abducted by Russian soldiers, accused of conspiring with Chechen rebels. Their neighbor, Akhmed, takes the young girl to Hospital No. 6, where a young surgeon named Sonja agrees to help care for the girl if Akhmed, who has some dubious medical training, will help care for patients. A beautiful story told amid horrific events, the novel manages to be life affirming while detailing the worst that mankind has to offer. In that sense, it is somewhat reminiscent in tone to All The Light We Cannot See, but this is a completely original novel with brilliant characterizations and masterful plotting, especially considering that Anthony Marra is a first-time author. Not an easy read, but well worth the effort.

Nov 04, 2020

This book was a very good, very descriptive story of people living in a war torn part of Europe. The main character was a wonderful character, seemingly very crusty but capable of such deep feelings, she needs to protect herself with gruffness.

Mar 10, 2018

I cannot remember being so thoroughly moved by a book as I was by this one. I felt as though I had a part of the genuine experience of living in a war zone. Sections of this are achingly sad (the story of how one of the characters who, faced with experiencing torture for the second time, turns to betrayal of his neighbors, left me haunted) but there is humor, too. Marra paints his characters with such depth that I could envision them at every step. Find this book for yourself and experience its soul and humanity.

Jun 20, 2017

I loved it!! All the reviews are correct, depending on your preferences and point of view. But I absolutely loved it to death. I can't find anything I want to read since I've read this. It's tragic, for sure. But so beautifully written. It captivated me from beginning to end and I give it out as gifts to certain people. If you can't read about darkness, don't pick up this one.

jr3083 Apr 24, 2017

Reading the debut book of a writer whose second book you really liked is a bit of a gamble. What if s/he only found firm footing with the second book? What if the first was a dud?

I needn’t have worried. There are similarities between Anthony Marra’s second book The Tsar of Love and Techno in that both books have sections set in Chechnya (in fact, the whole of Constellation is set there) and they both have oblique titles, but this book focusses more on a small group of people and is ‘straighter’...

I know very little Chechnyan history, but I feel that I know more having read this book- and what an easy, seductive way to learn it.

All of this written with wisdom and compassion and with landscapes and people described so clearly that you can see it. He's good; very good.
For my complete review, see

Feb 01, 2017

I persisted with this book. The writing was beautiful, but at times confusing. It was heartbreaking to read about the terrible effects of war. Most of the characters were well developed and I liked how the stories overlapped.

brianreynolds Jan 11, 2017

Anthony Marra’s prose dances a tightrope between poetic eloquence and tedious extravagance. Often it charmed me with metaphors one had to stop and celebrate; just as often I found myself falling asleep on a long train ride composed of parallel constructions or lists or rambling similes. The narrative was more brutal than anyone I personally know would use the words “enjoy” or “become absorbed by” to describe reading it. I wanted to put it down. Never having killed or tortured anyone myself, I’m not prepared to say it wasn’t realistic. I didn’t put it down. In fact, A Constellation was so ironic in its tone, I had great difficulty accepting the author’s attempt to shape it at the last minute into an archetypal comedy. Not fair. Not good enough to simply say this or that will happen seven or ten years in the future, when everything that leads up to the conclusion points to there being no future at all for either of the survivors. I have no quarrel that the book is brilliant. Nor is the story unimportant in any sense. It was not an easy read, but I’m sure Marra would counter: it’s not an easy century to live in.

Sep 16, 2016

Well written for a debut novel. I picked up a quick history lesson about a modern day conflict that I knew very little about. It is well researched and the characters are well developed.

Jun 13, 2016

Anthony Marra vividly paints a portrait of people who are at their best and worst under extreme circumstances. I had some difficulty following the time jumps, but the book is beautifully written and the ending made the slower portions worthwhile.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

No words are wasted in Anthony Marra's debut novel about Chechnya. The plot is woven very intricately; every loose strand is tied before the book reaches its conclusion. And what a beautiful tapestry it is. It's lyrical and affecting, intelligent but never boring. The scenery and characters come alive. Marra does a fabulous job of crafting a moving novel without becoming overly sentimental. In short, I cannot praise this book enough.

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Dec 10, 2013

sabricent thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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Aug 19, 2015

11 copies, russian war, yng girl saved by physician neighbor


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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.


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