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Review – Silk by Alessandro Baricco


by Alessandro Baricco
91 pages
Published 1997 (English translation)

Silk by Alessandro Baricco is a wisp of a book. At 91 pages, the story is quickly told but will sit with you for a longer time than it took you to read it.

Herve (imagine an accent on the e) is a silk merchant in France in 1861, meaning he buys silkworms and spins the silk. At some point, many of the silkworms in western Europe are sick, causing them to die prematurely. Herve (continue to imagine the accent on the e), has to go further and further east to find healthy silkworms, until he eventually finds himself going to Japan.

On his first trip to Japan, Herve sees a young woman in the court of the man from whom he is to buy a batch of silkworms. What Herve notices about this woman is that she’s not only beautiful, but she’s not Asian. She manages to pass him a note, but as it’s written in Japanese, he can’t find out what it says until he gets back to France. This woman becomes his obsession.

I can’t tell you more without giving away the whole story, but I really enjoyed this novella. The story’s fairly simple, but deep and complex with characters that really stand out…like the guy who plays pool against himself, but so there’s two different “sides” he only uses one hand when shooting (i.e. he uses his left hand for one “side” and his right hand for the other “side”). While I didn’t love this book, the ending took me a little by surprise and really left me with some things to think about.

Rating: 88 out of 100

You can buy the book from Powell’s, Amazon, or any other bookstore.

Other (definitely better) reviews:

A Striped Armchair

Big Book, Big Evil

Bart’s Bookshelf

Jules’ Book Reviews

Reading Matters

| Tags: , , , , 19 comments »

19 Responses to “Review – Silk by Alessandro Baricco”

  1. nat @ book, line, and sinker

    the book sounds like an interesting read..but the trouble i’m having is the more book blogs i read, the more books i want to read!!!!

    one comment to you…i always feel a bit sad when i see your little “Other (definitely better) reviews” at the end of your reviews. trish, you’re a star–don’t put yourself down!!!!


  2. S, Krishna

    It’s hard to review short books, isn’t it? Still, you did a great job with this one and I’m adding it to my TBR list!


  3. Smash

    This sounds fantastic! And so unusual. Definitely adding to my list!


  4. Ti

    I love reading about the silk industry. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes a simple story, simply told is all ya need.


  5. Beth F

    Sound good. You won me with “deep and complex with characters that really stand out.”


  6. Michelle

    Sounds like a really quick easy but satisfying read. Thanks for the review.


  7. Alyce

    This does sound like it would be an intriguing story. I loved the second note about the accent on the e – I needed that reminder since I had already gone back to pronouncing it like Harve in my head. Yes, I know it’s Herve, but it made me think of Harve! Like in the Little House on the Prairie episode where Laura gets married. Ok, totally revealed some of my geekiness there – I love LHOP! :)But I digress – great review!


  8. Chris

    This one sounds so good…and I just got it in the mail myself! I love the style of the book with the short chapters and spacing on the page…very nice!


  9. Steph

    I read about this over at Eva’s site and was intrigued, but your review has reminded me that I really need to look into getting a copy of this one. It sounds like it’s a really rewarding read, and I always like tackling shorter books than those big chunksters that intimidate me!


  10. Jessica

    I found you again! There is no escaping me!


  11. madeleine

    I read this book a few years back in it’s French version, also a small book, and loved it. Alessandro Barrico wrote other lovely books I believe are translated in English.


  12. jennygirl

    Oh this is an excellent review. Makes me want to read this book.


  13. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

    Short books are hard to review….and this sounds intriguing, though for some reason silkworms…or the idea of them makes me squeemish


  14. Kathy

    I love books set in Asia – thanks for bringing this one to my attention


  15. Biblibio

    I’ve been trying to find a few novellas to read recently, but most of the one’s I’ve encountered have left me less-than-satisfied. Still, something about this description sounds intriguing. The idea of playing pool against yourself may be what’s got my attention…


  16. Jo

    I’ve got this waiting to be read. I might move it up a bit after reading this review. I liked the bit about playing pool too!


  17. Heather J.

    Ok, I’m intrigued. And since it is short, I don’t feel bad adding it to my TBR list!


  18. Sadako

    Wow, really intriguing. I love stuff set long ago. Kind of reminds me of Perfume, but probably a lot less creepy. (Though Perfume was good, too!)


  19. Teddy

    Wonderful review Trish! I really want to read this book!


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