three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
By: 
DBC Pierre
user_rating: 
0

A-Ludmila’sBrokenEnglishBlair and Gordon Heath are eager to go their own way. After 33 years as conjoined twins, their surgical separation spurs Blair’s raging libido and Gordon’s timidity. Set adrift in a not-so-futuristic London astir with fears of terrorism, the brothers find the emotional separation much more difficult than the physical. Further east, in the Russian Caucasus, beautiful Ludmila Barov violently wrests herself from an incestuous grandfather while struggling to support the rest of her family. Blair’s sex drive, Ludmila’s economic peril, and the Internet bring the three characters together in a satirical collision of the forces of globalization.
Norton. 336 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0393062376

Seattle Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Pierre is one of a few contemporary writers who cares enough about prose to pay attention to each word, each sentence, each nuance. What results is incomparably original, fresh storytelling that leaves the bulk of contemporary satirical storytelling far behind, caught in the quagmire of dissolute languor and stale story arcs." Skye K. Moody

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Ludmila’s Broken English is a book of fantastical insults, dizzying schemes and trickery; a story about characters who dupe each other. … But this out-on-a-limb quality is precisely what makes his new book such a wonder." Judith Lewis

Oregonian 3 of 5 Stars
"DBC Pierre approaches storytelling the way a Kentucky-born good old boy handles bourbon and automatic weapons. He’s loose and fearless with his phrasing, plot points and language. Even when Pierre misses the mark, it’s a loud, lively and exhausting affair." Joe Kurmaskie

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"The weirdest aspect of this linguistic chaos is that the author himself seems to have lost control of his native tongue. No body part is safe from the awful ambition of metaphor." Sophie Harrison

Washington Post 0.5 of 5 Stars
"Ludmila’s Broken English is the worst novel I’ve read since DBC Pierre’s debut novel, Vernon God Little. … There’s a certain linguistic energy here, but it drains away through constant repetition. And who wants to satirize starving, desperate peasants in the Caucasus, anyway?" Ron Charles

Critical Summary

A thick wall divides those that admire DBC Pierre’s headlong linguistic energy from those who still seem offended that his first novel, Vernon God Little, won the MAN Booker and Whitbread prizes. Supporters find a sinister intelligence at work in the alternating narratives of the Heath twins and Ludmila, written "by an author who almost diabolically misleads his readers" (Los Angeles Times). That’s meant as a compliment, but it lends support to the detractors who complain of conceits that don’t pan out and sloppy prose and who harbor little patience for the narrative misdirection. The most evenhanded of the reviews, in The Oregonian, sums it up best with this caveat: "Embrace Pierre’s full-bodied, freewheeling technique on the first page or get ready for a thoroughly dislocating ride."

Also by the Author

Vernon God Little (2003): 2.5 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2004. When a student blows away 16 of his classmates and himself in Martirio, Texas, everyone thinks 15-year-old Vernon Gregory "God" Little did it. The British author covers all the bases with his dark-humored look at American culture—including a death row reality television show.