Book Review: In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

Number of pages – 336 pages
Publisher – Daunt Books

I first came across this book on a YouTube video and I had to have it because the cover blew me away. In the video, when the person was discussing it they made it sound like it was a fantasy novel but after doing my own research I discovered that it was a western. I had never read a western before but my father loved cowboys films so I’ve always had an interest in the genre. And now knowing that it was a western it didn’t put me off so I eagerly waited for it to come through the letterbox.

When I finally had it in my hands the cover was more beautiful than I remembered, it felt so smooth, everything about how it looked made me so excited to read it.

Before getting into my thought’s of the novel, I’ll fill you in on what the story is about. Håkan Söderström and his brother are sent from their home in Sweden to travel to New York in the early 1850’s. They get separated on their journey and Håkan finds himself alone aboard a boat to California. He doesn’t speak any English and has no money but he is determined to find his brother once he gets to America. He grows from a young boy to a grown man very quickly, people see him as a giant and they begin to fear his size and awful rumours about Håkan start to spread. Wanted by the Law he travels many years alone through the mountains and deserts of America, the image of his brother giving him the will to push on.

The book starts with an older Håkan telling the tale of his life to anyone who will listen. There isn’t much dialogue throughout the book, and I believe the reason why is because the character doesn’t speak English. The author’s style of writing is very descriptive but isn’t clunky. The prose is very imaginative, I could clearly picture the hot days in the desert and feel the pain that he was going through.

Håkan is a character that I found myself really getting behind, he goes through so much and is alone a lot of the time though they are many interesting characters he meets, friends and foes. His journey is a struggle, he is uneducated and has to rely on luck which isn’t on his side throughout most of the book.

My favourite part about this book is Håkan and I’m so impressed that Diaz has managed to create such a misunderstood and sympathetic character.

There isn’t anything I’d say that I disliked about this book but because the book is so heavy in isolation and Håkan has so many negative experience’s it’s hard to put into words. Searching for his brother is what pushes him on but being alone in a world that is still to be fully discovered, his hope of finding him seems to be at an end.

In the Distance is the tale of the American dream gone hopelessly wrong and the struggle to survive. Overcoming the loneliness and the pain, and the anxiety and the fear to trust people. It is a unique novel, not your typical western and I’d highly recommend it as an introduction to that genre, it’s four out of five stars for me.

 

First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org

 

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