Thursday, April 30

Book Review: Rings of Saturn

Title: Rings of Saturn

Author: W.G. Sebald

Pages: 296

Summary: The Rings of Saturn follows the triumph of Seybold's highly acclaimed American debut, The Emigrants (New Directions, 1996). A fictional account of a walking tour through England's East Anglia, Sebald's home for more than twenty years, The Rings of Saturn explores Britain's pastoral and imperial past. Its ten strange and beautiful chapters, with their curious archive of photographs, consider dreams and reality. As the narrator walks, a company of ghosts keeps him company-- Thomas Browne, Swinburne, Chateaubriand, Joseph Conrad, Borges--conductors between the past and present. The narrator meets lonely eccentrics inhabiting tumble-down mansions, and hears of the furious coastal battles of two world wars. He tells of far-off China and the introduction of the silk industry to Norwich. He walks to the now forsaken harbor where Conrad first set foot on English soil and visits the site of the once-great city of Dunwich, now sunk in the sea, where schools of herring swim. As the narrator catalogs the transmigration of whole worlds, the reader is mesmerized by change and oblivion, survival and memories. Blending fiction and history, Sebald's art is as strange and beautiful as the rings of Saturn, created from fragments of shattered moons.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:
This is one of those books, where you don’t dislike the book, but not sure if you like it either. On one hand, Sebald is a very talented author. He is good at description, and using words to draw the reader in, and keep them interested in the story. And the idea behind the novel and how it was approached was also well done, and very unique, it really was unlike any other book I’ve read. Having a walking tour of England and being told the history/small stories behind it and what he sees during his tour. But, something just falls short in this part for me, the story and the “history” just didn’t interest me enough to make me really enjoy the book. I think what kept me reading was Sebald’s writing style and story telling abilities, or potential. One of the positives of the book is that it has made me want to look at more of his work and see his true potential. Not a bad book, but its not a book I’d give much thought to now that it’s finished.

Would I recommend it to read: I’m not sure if I would recommend this book or not. This was on the 2006 1001 Books to Read Before you die list, but on the newest versions it’s been omitted which was how I found out about the book. I selected it merely on its title. But the book just has something missing, its fiction and reads more like non-fiction, with a talented author using good use of words and descriptions, rather than a historian. So, I’m on the fence on this one.

What to read next: More books by Sebald. I want to see what his other novels are like. Some of them Are; The Emigrants, Austerlitz.

Challenges: 1% Well Read Challenge, 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge,
A - Z Challenge. New Author Challenge


  1. This book sounds kind of interesting, but based on your comments, I am not sure I would enjoy it. I tend to like fictional books that are written in a non fictional style, but for some reason this book doesn't strike me as something I need to pick up right away. I do think I might look it up anyway and glance through the pages at the library, that way there is no real commitment if I don't want to read it.

  2. That's one of the best things about libraries, you get to browse through books, but don't feel as bad, when after you started reading them you set them aside. I've done that once, with Cancer Ward. I just couldn't get through it. Luckily it was a library book, and not one of my own.