Insurrecto
Histories and personalities collide in this literary tour-de-force about the Philippines' present and America's past by the PEN Open Book Award–winning author of Gun Dealer's Daughter.Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside. Magsalin reads Chiara’s film script and writes her own version. Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator—one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher.Within the spiraling voices and narrative layers of Insurrecto are stories of women—artists, lovers, revolutionaries, daughters—finding their way to their own truths and histories. Using interlocking voices and a kaleidoscopic structure, the novel is startlingly innovative, meditative, and playful. Insurrecto masterfully questions and twists narrative in the manner of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, and Nabokov’s Pale Fire. Apostol pushes up against the limits of fiction in order to recover the atrocity in Balangiga, and in so doing, she shows us the dark heart of an untold and forgotten war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history.

Insurrecto Details

TitleInsurrecto
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 13th, 2018
PublisherSoho Press
ISBN-139781616959449
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Cultural, Asia, Contemporary

Insurrecto Review

  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    Kaleidoscopic metafiction in the PhilippinesTowards the beginning of Insurrecto there is a reference to Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, an early 20th century artwork inspired by stop-motion photography, which depicts a figure in motion using overlapping abstract forms. This is a clue (one of many) to the book’s approach: if Insurrecto was a painting it would be a cubist one, the narrative broken apart and reassembled in highly stylised, abstract, dimensional form. It is disorienting at fi Kaleidoscopic metafiction in the PhilippinesTowards the beginning of Insurrecto there is a reference to Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, an early 20th century artwork inspired by stop-motion photography, which depicts a figure in motion using overlapping abstract forms. This is a clue (one of many) to the book’s approach: if Insurrecto was a painting it would be a cubist one, the narrative broken apart and reassembled in highly stylised, abstract, dimensional form. It is disorienting at first but starts to make sense the longer you stare at it. So, this is a pretty confusing novel. I would not call it ‘difficult’ but it does require attention – this is not the sort of book you can just zone out to. It is a ‘thinky’ novel rather than a ‘feely’ one – concerned with connecting ideas and observations; it is not particularly emotion- or character-driven. If you are looking for an examination of Duterte’s Philippines, you might want to look elsewhere. Apart from one climactic scene of police brutality, current day issues are not the main concern here. Nor is this what you would call ‘historical fiction’.We first meet Magsalin, a mystery writer and translator who has returned to her native Philippines after several years in the U.S. She is writing a novel about Chiara, an American filmmaker whose father Ludo, also a filmmaker, made a movie in the 1970s, The Unintended, shot in the Philippines and ostensibly about the Vietnam war, but with parallels to an earlier insurrection in Balangiga in 1901 during the Philippine-American war. With me so far?Chiara (despite possibly being Magsalin’s fictional invention?) engages Magsalin as her translator. The two women undertake the writing & researching of duelling film scripts, one about the uprising at Balangiga, the other about the behind-the-scenes production of The Unintended, including Chiara’s childhood. These metafictional layers are collapsed upon each other such that everything seems to be taking place on the same plane – different perspectives all facing out simultaneously. Chapter numbers are out of sequence, with the different story strands spliced together. The hopscotching chapters, seemingly in random order, are in fact assembled with care and things do begin to make sense in due course, but it takes a long time and most likely benefits from a second reading (an alternative chapter order, presumably sequential, is provided at praxino.org along with other supplementary material).Apostol is concerned with perspectives, with lenses, multiple methods of viewing. Insurrecto is filled with examples of these from the familiar – cinema, photography – to the obsolete – the stereoscope and the praxinoscope with their early attempts at rendering 3D effects or moving images. Authors often employ cinematic techniques but Apostol’s chopped-up, montage style is more like a video art installation than a movie. The personal & the political; the historical & the contemporary; the colonised & the colonisers; the tragic & the absurd: none of these are foregrounded because it is all combined and presented as one multi-faceted view.Frequently you feel Apostol’s presence as a guide to decoding the book, as the text itself hints at how it should be read: "The story Magsalin wishes to tell is about loss. Any emblem will do: a French-Tunisian with an unfinished manuscript, an American obsessed with a Filipino war, a filmmaker’s possible murder, a wife’s sadness. An abaca weave, a warp and weft of numbers, is measured but invisible in the plot. Chapter numbers double up. Puzzle pieces scramble. Points of view will multiply. Allusions, ditto. There will be blood, a kidnapping, or a solution to a crime forgotten by history. That is, Magsalin hopes so." At the heart of the story is Casiana Nacionales, the 'Geronima of Balangiga', female revolutionary and, in Apostol’s telling, the main instigator of the uprising. Nacionales remains enigmatic, but she represents the obscured and forgotten figures of history, a "story of war and loss so repressed and so untold". Insurrecto is not a straightforward historical accounting of events, it is a puzzle, one that won’t be to every reader’s taste. Nevertheless, it is powerful, memorable and assured.
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  • Lark Benobi
    January 1, 1970
    Insurrecto gives me faith that the root meaning of 'novel', nouvelle, something new—will continue to be true for a long time to come. Every sentence here was a revelation. Manila—so perfectly captured. The strange, very strange layer of popular American culture that paints itself over the Philippines—perfect. The strange, very strange way that Tagalog becomes the language of choice for ‘strange’ in English-language movies set in far-off lands....my friend from the Philippines had never stopped b Insurrecto gives me faith that the root meaning of 'novel', nouvelle, something new—will continue to be true for a long time to come. Every sentence here was a revelation. Manila—so perfectly captured. The strange, very strange layer of popular American culture that paints itself over the Philippines—perfect. The strange, very strange way that Tagalog becomes the language of choice for ‘strange’ in English-language movies set in far-off lands....my friend from the Philippines had never stopped being indignant at the way Tagalog is spoken by Ewoks and Indonesians and Vietnamese, depending on the movie. Most of all though this novel is an indictment of the way we forget. As well as an indictment of the way we remember, inaccurately. It is my best book of 2018. I’m so grateful to have read it. If you try to read it yourself, it helps to be sipping chardonnay as you read along…chardonnay is not obligatory, but it might help you get over any irritation about the complete lack of linearity; about the stacks of stories being told here. It might help you hear the music.Also it might help to take to heart the advice given on p. 103: "A reader does not need to know everything."Wonderful.Also, everyone who matters in this novel is an incredibly interesting woman. Yep.
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    How far can you push a labyrinthine meta-fictional, meta-cinematic novel complete with linked film scripts that takes on US imperialism and the troubled Philippine–American relationship and history? Exactly this far. Loved it. Reminded me of THE SYMPATHIZER but was even more dizzying. I’m happy to work for my fiction if it’s this good.
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  • Gabe
    January 1, 1970
    One of the best novels of the year.
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    January 1, 1970
    I found the audiobook of this on Hoopla, but the narrative of this book is complex so I would recommend reading a hard copy if one is available to you. This is a multi-layered story about two women traveling in the Philippines-a young American filmmaker and a translator. A central theme of the book is grief. Both women are dealing with personal grief, but there is also an examination of cultural/social grief in the face of colonialism and a particular massacre in the Philippines. There is a lot I found the audiobook of this on Hoopla, but the narrative of this book is complex so I would recommend reading a hard copy if one is available to you. This is a multi-layered story about two women traveling in the Philippines-a young American filmmaker and a translator. A central theme of the book is grief. Both women are dealing with personal grief, but there is also an examination of cultural/social grief in the face of colonialism and a particular massacre in the Philippines. There is a lot of jumping about between the different levels of the narrative, so I had to rewind and listen again multiple times to make sure I didn’t miss anything. 3.5⭐️
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  • Eugene
    January 1, 1970
    A polymath's lyricism is woven with post-colonial tristesse. A deft and labyrinthine depiction of our helpless condition of ever-revolving insurrection, Gina Apostol has created an elegant mise en abyme wherein the colonizer and the colonized reflect themselves over and over and yet over again._________________i found this site quite helpful : https://www.praxino.org/chapters-in-n...and https://www.praxino.org/album-of-ster..._________________post scriptum & nota bene : found this passage in A polymath's lyricism is woven with post-colonial tristesse. A deft and labyrinthine depiction of our helpless condition of ever-revolving insurrection, Gina Apostol has created an elegant mise en abyme wherein the colonizer and the colonized reflect themselves over and over and yet over again._________________i found this site quite helpful : https://www.praxino.org/chapters-in-n...and https://www.praxino.org/album-of-ster..._________________post scriptum & nota bene : found this passage in apostol's also excellent GUN DEALERS' DAUGHTER (which serves as good intro/sequel/commentary) for INSURRECTO:I discovered that our books of history were invariably in the voice of the colonist, the one who misrecognized us. We were inscrutable apes engaging in implausible insurrections against gun-wielding epic heroes who disdained our culture but wanted our land. The simplicity and rapacity of their reductions were consistent, and as counterpoint to Soli’s version of the past, these books provided, as I admitted to Soli, the ballast for my tardy revolt. Soli reproved me. Why do history books persuade you but not the world around you? You live in a puppet totalitarian regime, propped up by guns from America, so that we are no sovereign country but a mere outpost of foreign interests in the Far East. She said this with such conviction, I could barely reply. But, I countered, the military-industrial complex, as you call it, does it not suggest not only an economic order but also a psychiatric disorder? It occurred to me that it was a system of oppression that spurred both of our delusions—hers (to save the nation) and mine (to save myself). Soli nodded, disarmed at the thought, but in the end she disagreed. Obscurantism, she said, does not serve change. The therapeutic couch may be necessary—at least for some, she said pointedly. But it is not the place for action. Next time you drive home to Makati, she said, look around: all you need is to look out your limousine’s window to know that it is a problem to be living the good life in such bad times.
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    Initial thoughts: Girl, bye.Well. This was definitely not the book I believed it was going to be. Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto, a novel of two women — one a translator, the other a filmmaker — forever bumping heads as they scribe the infamous and continuous brutalities of the Philippine-American War, had a promising foundation but was marred by the hands of its own creator.Getting through the first 50 pages of Apostol’s writing was, in itself, a chore, let alone its entire 300 pages. What's more, I Initial thoughts: Girl, bye.Well. This was definitely not the book I believed it was going to be. Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto, a novel of two women — one a translator, the other a filmmaker — forever bumping heads as they scribe the infamous and continuous brutalities of the Philippine-American War, had a promising foundation but was marred by the hands of its own creator.Getting through the first 50 pages of Apostol’s writing was, in itself, a chore, let alone its entire 300 pages. What's more, I was not expecting the book to become even more confusing as it progressed. Jessie, my biblio in crime with whom I read for a buddy read, echoed my exact feelings and frustrations. The only difference: she finished, I did not. (LOL) I tried, you guys. I truly did. Had it not been for Jessie’s reassurance and our commitment, I would have called it a day a long time ago. Maybe I will finish it anyway — I only had a couple chapters to go — but I know my feelings won’t change because the writing style made it nearly impossible to enjoy — I even tried listening on audio, which I’m not a fan of cause I like taking notes. (Many 2/3-star Goodreads users agree with me.) Apostol uses flowery, superfluous language and makes reference to just about as many useless details and flashbacks imaginable to cover up the fact that this story had no direction whatsoever. By two-thirds of the book, I was rendered helpless and wanted no more. One nice thing I have to say — something Jessie and I both agreed on — was that Apostol’s novel had an incredibly promising premise: Unpacking the colonialism and savagery of war inflicted upon natives of the Philippines through two women with strong ties to the atrocity? Sign me up! But told like this? No.My verdict, nonetheless: Sis, this ain’t it.
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  • jo
    January 1, 1970
    gina apostol is a brilliant writer and a polymath. the book is as lovely at the sentence level (so. much. beautiful. writing) as it is mindblowing in its conception. the layering is not discreet, but let me try: - a filipino translator is trying her hand at writing a mystery- which involves a famous director who is shooting a film- this director is using the translator because the movie is set in the philippines and the director is italian-american- the novel you are reading is partly the myster gina apostol is a brilliant writer and a polymath. the book is as lovely at the sentence level (so. much. beautiful. writing) as it is mindblowing in its conception. the layering is not discreet, but let me try: - a filipino translator is trying her hand at writing a mystery- which involves a famous director who is shooting a film- this director is using the translator because the movie is set in the philippines and the director is italian-american- the novel you are reading is partly the mystery, partly the movie (though, really, it is both the script and an account of the shooting process)- it's also a real story about a revolutionary act that took place in 1901 by filipinos against occupying american forces- the novel you read jumps between the real story, the story that is part of magsalin's mystery and the the story that is part of chiara's film, often in the same short paragraph (this is unequivocally mindblowing). - subplot 1: chiara's father, a revered italian american director, now deceased, shot a vietnam movie the location for which was the very area in the philippines where the the revolutionary act occurred.- subplot 2: chiara's mother and chiara's childhood- subplot 2: ludo's (chiara's father's) lover, filipina, and her relation to ludo. i am sure i'm missing something. what you get here is a colonized narrative questioned on the page. why are the filipinos perpetrators of the rebellion called insurrectos? their killing of american occupiers (the second biggest massacre of american troops, at the time, after big horn) is not an insurrection but a taking back of what's theirs. it is, in fact, a revolution. why has history erased the female leader of the revolution? why is tagalog, one of the philippines' languages, used randomly in movies when people speak in an undetermined foreign language whose understanding doesn't matter? why is the philippines the shooting location of movies that take place elsewhere?why does chiara want to make a movie about the philippines? ostensibly, to retrace the story of her dad, whom she misses, and missed throughout her childhood (he died when she was young). is chiara using the philippines as hunting ground for her memories and losses?nothing in this book is laid out traditionally. the book reflects constantly on itself as a novel, as a movie shooting account, as a mystery. it yanks the reader out of the story, forces the reader not to identify, makes the reader conscious of the construction of the text. apostol also puts quite a bit of film history, film theory, literary theory and postcolonial theory in the narrative, so that's another series of concepts you either know or look up, or just don't worry about. (i am sure i'm missing something: oh, art history! that's another one! i told you she's a polymath).what delighted me is that i got all the italian references, cuz i am italian. if you are not italian or an avid italophile, this bit also will be opaque to you.i anticipate this will be a classic of postcolonial literature pretty damn soon. it's fantastic.
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  • Nadine
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those books you want to start again immediately after finishing it - there is so much going on on so many levels I know my brain didn't pick it all up. It's a kaleidoscope of stories within stories, and spiralling ideas on colonialism, filmmaking, popular culture and more, but all anchored around the history of the US in the Philippines. This makes it sound like hard work to read, but it isn't - here are some samples to prove it:In the audiece at an Elvis Presley concert in Las Ve This is one of those books you want to start again immediately after finishing it - there is so much going on on so many levels I know my brain didn't pick it all up. It's a kaleidoscope of stories within stories, and spiralling ideas on colonialism, filmmaking, popular culture and more, but all anchored around the history of the US in the Philippines. This makes it sound like hard work to read, but it isn't - here are some samples to prove it:In the audiece at an Elvis Presley concert in Las Vegas (the bedazzled white jump-suit Elvis):"The spotlight turns back on. Virginie realizes it is a visual effect, not a snap in her brain, and she sees the man being rearranged, put back together by the strobe lights. A constructed and reconstructed figure, put back together by his audience’s screams.” An observation:“The life of a filmmaker is one of scraps of plots sandwiched between the lack of means to fulfill them. The life of a woman in the fifties is one of scraps of plots sandwiched between the lack of means to fulfill them.” Here is one character's way of reading novels like this one:“As she reads, Magsalin keeps track of her confusions annotating each chapter as she goes…In the notebook, she includes problems of continuity, the ones not explained by hopscotching chapters; issues of anachronism, given the short life-span of the male subject (1940-1977) contrasted against the women, who have superpowers: longevity and dispassion; words repeated as if they had been spilled and reconstituted then placed on another page; a stage set of interchangeable performers with identical names, or maybe doubles or understudies as they enter and exit the stage; an unexplained switch of characters’ names in one section; and the problem of lapsed time-in which simultaneous acts of writing are the illusions that sustain a story….But she rides the wave, she checks herself. A reader does not need to know everything.”And last but not least, this reflection on turn of the centuy colonial photographs:“Photographs of a captured country shot through the lens of the captor possess layers of ambiguity too confusing to grasp: there is the eye of the victim, the captured, stilled and muted and hallowed in mud and time; there is the eye of the victim, the captured, who may be bystander, belligerent, blameless, blamed – though there are subtle shifts in pathetic balance, who is to measure them?; there is the eye of the colonized viewing their captured history in the distance created by time; there is the eye of the captor, the soldier, who has just wounded the captured; there is the eye of the captor, the Colonizer who has captured history’s lens; there is the eye of the citizens, bystander, belligerent, blameless, blamed, whose history has colonized the captured in the distance created by time; and there is the eye of the actual photographer: the one who captured the captured and the captors in his camera’s lens-what the hell was HE thinking?"
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  • Collin
    January 1, 1970
    This is an amazing, skilfully written book. Apostol uses repetition, alliteration, multiple perspectives, and shifts the narrative back and forth in time, all to wonderful effect. In fact, after finishing this book, I feel it’s much deeper than I first thought and think I have only paddled over the surface. The narrative in its simplest form is about a massacre that took place in Balangiga in 1901. A terrible historical clash of cultures. Both cultures are represented by the two protagonists. Ma This is an amazing, skilfully written book. Apostol uses repetition, alliteration, multiple perspectives, and shifts the narrative back and forth in time, all to wonderful effect. In fact, after finishing this book, I feel it’s much deeper than I first thought and think I have only paddled over the surface. The narrative in its simplest form is about a massacre that took place in Balangiga in 1901. A terrible historical clash of cultures. Both cultures are represented by the two protagonists. Magsalin is a Filipino translator who is writing a book about Chiara and her famous father. Chiara is an American Film maker. The film she is making is about the massacre. A massacre in which a Filipino village and its inhabitants were killed in retaliation for the killing of its small American garrison. Chiara’s film tells the sordid tale from the perspective of an American photographer. Masalin is hired to help Chiara and incurs her wrath when she changes Chiara’s script and writes her version told more from a Filipino perspective. Apostol takes the reader back and forth from the present to the past, back and forth between the actual massacre and the filming of the massacre in the present. At the same time we are taken to the ongoing argument between Masalin and Chiara over the story and how it should be told. It is at this point we learn more about Chiara’s childhood and her father, and get an insight into why Chiara is making this film. It all works beautifully, however it can be slightly confusing at times, especially if read in multiple sittings. This is a great book. I will read it again, and I will also read all of Apostol’s work. 4.5 Stars.
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  • Miranda Hency
    January 1, 1970
    So complex and mind-boggling and incredibly meta, but so so worth it at the end.
  • Nick Klagge
    January 1, 1970
    I found this book a difficult read in more ways than one--both literarily and as a matter of reflection on national and family history. But I found it very worthwhile and recommend reading it, especially to Americans who know little about the Philippine-American war of the early 20th century (which, of course, is virtually all of us).I read Gina Apostol's novel "Gun Dealers' Daughter" earlier this year and enjoyed it, although sometimes I found her complex writing style to be a challenge. "Insur I found this book a difficult read in more ways than one--both literarily and as a matter of reflection on national and family history. But I found it very worthwhile and recommend reading it, especially to Americans who know little about the Philippine-American war of the early 20th century (which, of course, is virtually all of us).I read Gina Apostol's novel "Gun Dealers' Daughter" earlier this year and enjoyed it, although sometimes I found her complex writing style to be a challenge. "Insurrecto" is an even more complex book--I would liken it to books by Umberto Eco, whom I would have described as my favorite writer in my early 20's, although not currently. It follows two women in the modern Duterte-era Philippines, but also contains a number of artfully nested stories--Chiara is making a movie about events in Samar during the Philippine-American war (revolutionary violence that resulted in the highest casualties among American soldiers since the Battle of Little Bighorn, followed by the indiscriminate murder of thousands of Filipino civilians); Magsalin is her translator but creates her own revision of Chiara's script, and the story also ends up following the lives of Chiara's parents, one of whom was a filmmaker who created a movie about Vietnam but filmed it in the Philippines...etc. The different stories and perspectives are densely layered, with chapters intentionally numbered out of order and often started without pronoun referents to deliberately blur the different stories. I found that I enjoyed the book the most if I allowed myself some confusion and was not too fastidious about making sure I was following all of the connections. I believe this was to some degree Apostol's intent; she has spoken in interviews about how part of her goal in writing the book was to reflect her own mind's blend of colonized and colonizer, as a Filipina living in New York. (One thing I want to note for other readers, in case it's unclear to you as it was to me: Apostol's character Casiana Nacionales, despite her improbable-sounding name, was a real-life Filipina revolutionary--the only woman memorialized as part of the Balangiga uprising, though little is now known about her other than her name.)As Apostol artfully shows, the events of 1901 are far from irrelevant today. The US Army stole as war trophies the church bells of the town of Balangiga, Samar, which were displayed at a military base in Cheyenne, Wyoming until literally earlier this year. (Apostol's postscript glossary says that the bells have not been returned, which just shows how recently events have unfolded--I believe they are currently on their way back to the Philippines.) The occupying US forces used "the water cure" as a method of torturing Filipinos, which is very similar to modern waterboarding. And, perhaps the most distressing thing I learned about (from Apostol's glossary) was the existence of the "Order of the Carabao," a private club of American military leaders founded during the Philippine-American War that continues to exist and meet annually to this day. The club is a symbol of imperialism and racism that I am shocked to know still exists--and more than that, has hosted the likes of Colin Powell. See this Village Voice article from 2003 for some rather stomach-turning war-mongering and hearty singing of racist songs: https://www.villagevoice.com/2003/01/...). You know something is a despicable bastion of ancien regime racism when it uses racial slurs so obscure that you have to look them up ("kakiac" for khaki-colored skin)--cf. George Allen's use of "macaca" (monkey) in his 2006 campaign for one of Virginia's senate seats, which he just barely lost to Jim Webb. Aside from all that, this book also made me revisit a bit of my own family history. I learned within the last couple of years that my great-grandfather's brother, Ben Klagge, was in the US Army and stationed in the Philippines in the early 1900s. I learned this because I found in my grandma's attic some postcards that he had sent to my great-grandfather from the Philippines. The postcards don't tell anything about his experience or role there--he seems to have just sent them along for the images--but at least one was stamped and postmarked from Manila in 1909. I got interested in this (since my wife's family came from the Philippines) and ended up donating the postcards to a museum in the Philippines (Museo de La Salle) when I was there earlier this year. Since I knew the Philippine-American War happened around this time, I had looked up the dates; seeing that the war ended in 1902, I just assumed that Ben had been a grunt stationed on an army base well after the end of the conflict. But reading "Insurrecto" and doing some further research, I am much less confident in this view--the US military (and pro-American Filipino forces) continued fighting pro-independence forces in the more distant provinces all the way until 1912. So my great-grand-uncle may well have been an active participant in killing Filipinos and suppressing the movement for independence. I know we all have unpleasant things in our family trees if we look hard enough, but it is a little vertiginous to realize that only three generations separate me and Ben. And if nothing else, I certainly wish I had done more homework and gotten a little more perspective before bringing the postcards to the museum.I try to remember that I'm not the only American who knows very little about the Philippine-American War--it's a rather dark part of our country's history that many would prefer kept tidily under the rug. I'm glad Apostol wrote this book, which is not only a very strong novel on its own merits, but which should also play a role in increasing awareness of this imperialist war in our collective memory.
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  • Aimee Dars
    January 1, 1970
    Chiara Brasi, a director, has arrived in the Philippines to make a pilgrimage to Samar where her father, Ludo, also a director, filmed his Vietnam War movie, The Unintended. She hires translator and budding mystery writer Magsalin who grew up in the Philippines but relocated to New York to accompany her on the trip.So that Magsalin might understand the purpose of her visit, Chiara sent her a copy of a script she planned on shooting in Samar herself. Magsalin took issue with the script and rewrot Chiara Brasi, a director, has arrived in the Philippines to make a pilgrimage to Samar where her father, Ludo, also a director, filmed his Vietnam War movie, The Unintended. She hires translator and budding mystery writer Magsalin who grew up in the Philippines but relocated to New York to accompany her on the trip.So that Magsalin might understand the purpose of her visit, Chiara sent her a copy of a script she planned on shooting in Samar herself. Magsalin took issue with the script and rewrote it with what she believed was a more appropriate perspective.At the center of the scripts lay the 1901 massacre in Balangiga. A village of insurgents or freedom fighters, depending on your point of view, attacked a U.S. army outpost and killed most of the soldiers. In retaliation, the army killed anyone in the region who could bear arms against the U.S.--males older than ten--and halted trade, including the arrival of food. Historians estimate anywhere from 2,500 to 50,000 Filipinos were killed.Insurrecto imagines Casiana Nacionales, the only female in the historical records surrounding the massacre, as a leader against the U.S. army, organizing the women and facilitating the release of the men who were imprisoned as forced labor. How she and her allies achieve this is actually quite funny and draws on Apostol’s delight in puns and word play. In the fictional account, American photographer Cassandra Stone witnesses the initial attack and the aftermath.In the context of the novel, some critics saw The Unintended as Ludo’s retelling and critique of the army’s actions in 1901, with similar events and the movie drawing from historical names to identify the characters. It was also in the Philippines that Ludo disappeared from Chiara’s life.Insurrecto layers the story of the Balangiga massacre, the imagined history of Ludo making his final film and what happened to him, and the interactions between the two women. However, this is all on a shaky foundation as it’s never quite clear who is narrating the book at most moments. Certainly, this is by design. In interviews with Apostol I read after finishing the book, she stressed that the voices of colonized and colonizers were intertwined and their stories could not be told independently. Alone, their narratives would be incomprehensible.Over and over in the novel, too, events are mediated by lenses of cameras or through mirrors, and it’s particularly interesting how Cassandra poses her photographs which become popular in the United States but also contain misleading implications about relationships and are accompanied by incorrect captions.How grief informs history and memory and how history (as we know) is written by the victors, echoes throughout the book. Some characters, though, like Chiara’s mother Virginie, crave forgetting, and Virginie refuses to stay in one place, living in sterile hotels devoid of reminders.I really enjoyed reading about the events of 1901, which I’d not heard about before, and learning about Casiana Nacionales. It might not be a coincidence that this is also the most linear and straightforward part of the novel.While I very much respected the themes Apostol developed, overall, I didn’t enjoy reading Insurrecto besides this subplot. The chapters were presented out of order with several chapters 1. I’m sure there is a pattern to this, but I am not invested enough to analyze it. Outside of the historical story, I never felt on a solid foundation in terms of the narrator or whether the events were in fact happening or just part of Magsalin’s writing process.When I was telling my husband about Insurrecto, he said I was too square to like the book, and he might be right. This pushed the boundaries too much for me to ever just relax and take pleasure in the story or the writing, though I certainly applaud Apostol and her risk-taking. I think whether you like the novel will depend on how much you fancy non-traditional narratives. If they are not for you, you probably won’t like Insurrecto. However, if they are something you find pleasing, you’ll probably love the book....aka darzy... | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
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  • Sam Shaw
    January 1, 1970
    From the PEN Open Book Award-winning author of Gun Dealers’ Daughter, Gina Apostol, comes Insurrecto, a haunting tribute to America’s past and present for the people of the Philippines. Woven between the parallel storylines of Filipino translator Magsalin and American filmmaker Chiara emerges a brilliant narrative. While Chiara works on a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War in 1901, the reader gets an understanding of the cruelty of the American general and his garris From the PEN Open Book Award-winning author of Gun Dealers’ Daughter, Gina Apostol, comes Insurrecto, a haunting tribute to America’s past and present for the people of the Philippines. Woven between the parallel storylines of Filipino translator Magsalin and American filmmaker Chiara emerges a brilliant narrative. While Chiara works on a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War in 1901, the reader gets an understanding of the cruelty of the American general and his garrison. The two made the countryside into a “howling wilderness” by killing all men in Balangiga, Samar who were old enough to hold a gun. The literary work Apostol puts together combines Chiara’s script writing process and the translator Magsalin’s choice to rewrite Chaira’s script. With her wandering narrative voice, Apostol expertly weaves a tapestry of tragedy for her readers. In and among the creation of the twin scripts, the dramatic action of each of the lives of the two women informs the context within which they each choose to create. Chiara writes because that is what she knows. When her filmmaker father abandoned her and her mother, the only way she could connect with herself, and by extension him, was to make art. Apostol writes, “...she never went back to his films. She made her own. Art is her asylum.” On the other hand, Magsalin’s life is framed by her mother’s death. After her mother passed away, she left the Philippines in search of something else. She spends her time traveling, translating and exploring New York City. So, when she sees an email that asks for a translator to accompany Chiara back to her home, she hesitantly accepts. Clearly, the whorled tales of the women inform the action on each and every page. In search of truth, these artists, writers, mothers, daughters, and revolutionaries set out to explore their futures. Like the scars of the Philippine-American War, their pasts have left them with considerable challenges. These brave warrior-women, however, dive into the next chapter of their lives. The reader watches as they advance upon the unknown. The back of the book claims, “Apostol pushes up against the limits of fiction in order to recover the atrocity in Balangiga, and in so doing, she shows us the dark heart of an untold and forgotten war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history.” To read the twists and turns of this fictional tale, one must be prepared to think deeply about the author’s allusions and wandering musings because she keeps this “dark heart” alive through crafty language and highly intentional prose lyrics. Yes, she pushes the limits of fiction, but she does so with eloquence and purpose. The stories she shares sing in concert a ballad of heartache and healing.This book is for those of us who revel in the question “why?” It is for the readers who crave explanation and honesty, who need the discovery of truth as though it is their lifeblood. Insurrecto serves as a vehicle for the curious to probe what is presented as the truth and pull it apart. It is for the archaeologists who dig beneath the surface in pursuit of something new. Gina Apostol presents the reader with a boundary-pushing narrative which allows each of us the space to ask ourselves “where does truth fit into my own narrative?”
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    Contrary to the cover photo, this is a very modern or even postmodern novel. It exposes an important episode in Philippine-American history through the interactions two contemporary, strong-willed women, one a Filippina translator and one an American filmmaker. There's enough going on that the book deserves a second read, but I enjoyed the layered stories, the interaction of the two protagonists, the exploration of creativity, and the chance to learn more about the US's imperial history in the P Contrary to the cover photo, this is a very modern or even postmodern novel. It exposes an important episode in Philippine-American history through the interactions two contemporary, strong-willed women, one a Filippina translator and one an American filmmaker. There's enough going on that the book deserves a second read, but I enjoyed the layered stories, the interaction of the two protagonists, the exploration of creativity, and the chance to learn more about the US's imperial history in the Philippines.
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  • Jessie
    January 1, 1970
    About two contemporary women, a filmmaker and a writer, travelling around the Philippines with a duelling narrative about an uprising against the Americans in 1901, this book tried to do all of the things. What I liked: 1. The idea of the book. There is an important story in there somewhere. 2. The badassery of the Filipinx folks that disrupts the western narratives of sweetness, forbearance and whatever other lies we tell ourselves to justify the labour we demand in the west 3. Some of the comp About two contemporary women, a filmmaker and a writer, travelling around the Philippines with a duelling narrative about an uprising against the Americans in 1901, this book tried to do all of the things. What I liked: 1. The idea of the book. There is an important story in there somewhere. 2. The badassery of the Filipinx folks that disrupts the western narratives of sweetness, forbearance and whatever other lies we tell ourselves to justify the labour we demand in the west 3. Some of the complex-ass history of colonialism in the Philippines (it is a long storied history of multiple colonizations, it’s a lot to parse - holy hell). What I didn’t like 1. It was hard to follow. Really hard to follow. I know I missed a lot. 2. Too many storylines. I couldn’t get invested. Some twists and turns were extraneous and unimportant. I had a hard time landing in the novel. 3. It was too in it’s own head. I called it both fussy and tortured at times. Apparently it had pages of reference material in the book? There was so much that was inaccessible to the listener. 4. It tried to fit too much into one book. Curse of the second novel? Being tricky on purpose? Idk but it lost me in it’s attempted scope in few pages. By book buddy told me that a review called it metafiction and I think that’s a nice way of saying “it’s too dense to parse and it feels like it’s trying to pull a fast one on you”. I would try her first novel to see if this was aberration, so that speaks to her capacity as an author I suppose?
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  • Joshua Delos reyes
    January 1, 1970
    It was good, until Apostol tried too hard :/
  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    This review was first published on my blog In Between Book Pages. eARC was provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.As much as I love reading historical fiction based off other countries’ histories, I am hungry to see my own country’s history be featured in one, and that was what I was expecting to get in Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto. What I got instead was a mixed bag of a story, one that combines uniquely different strings and weirdly weaves them into one complementary piece.Starting off with This review was first published on my blog In Between Book Pages. eARC was provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.As much as I love reading historical fiction based off other countries’ histories, I am hungry to see my own country’s history be featured in one, and that was what I was expecting to get in Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto. What I got instead was a mixed bag of a story, one that combines uniquely different strings and weirdly weaves them into one complementary piece.Starting off with a six-paged Cast of Characters listing down a variety of personalities ranging from historical figures to pop culture icons alongside fictional ones, reading Insurrecto was an experience. I still don’t know what to make out of it honestly. It was confusing and dizzying — out-of-order chapters, a flurry of forward and backward switches between what appeared to be one main character’s movie script and the other’s mystery novel draft interspersed with both protagonists’ present-day experiences with the Philippines, from the gritty streets of the capital, Manila, to the coastal roads of Samar, serving as their backdrop. Still, even with all its tangential ropes, it somehow manages to coalesce into something coherent.With the 1901 Balangiga Massacre forming its backbone, Apostol uses her two main characters — Magsalin, a Filipino writer and translator and Chiara Brassi, an American filmmaker — to highlight the contrasting accounts with which this dark piece of history between the Philippines and the United States has been viewed and told. It was interesting how the labels differed depending on whose perspective it was coming from like how Magsalin calls the same group of Filipino fighters “revolutionaries” while Chiara views them as “insurgents.” Apostol successfully utilizes this, juxtaposing the two women’s viewpoints to illustrate her point, and she sticks with this message until the very end even as she drive both protagonists to pursue their own agendas.That said, while I appreciated Apostol’s thoughtful presentation and how well-researched this story was, I did not enjoy this as much as I expected to. Both Magsalin and Chiara felt faraway, flat characters acting as mere plot drivers, and I couldn’t connect with them, feel for them. The way the story was constructed and written also did not help. It was confusing, the language too flowery when things could be stated in a more direct way. I cannot count how many times I’ve put the book down just because of this. It was a distraction from the story this book is telling.Still, even if this wasn’t a fit for me, I think this is an important book and will recommend giving it at least a try. I could definitely see metafiction readers enjoying how this story played around and broke the constraints of storytelling. Historical fiction lovers may also find something to like in this book. I certainly enjoyed reading about Casiana Nacionales, the only known woman who participated in the rebellion in Balangiga. And with the US is set to return the Balangiga church bells taken as war loot after their troops’ retaliation, I think picking up this book is only fitting.
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  • L A
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced reading copy of Insurrecto from NetGalley and Soho Press in exchange for an honest review.I was quite interested to read this as the Philippines is not an area of the world I am very familiar with and I was looking forward to gaining an insight into the culture and some of the country’s history and culture. The book vividly describes the bustle, heat and culture of the Philippine setting. The characters initially seem compelling when we meet them, however, I did not feel l I received an advanced reading copy of Insurrecto from NetGalley and Soho Press in exchange for an honest review.I was quite interested to read this as the Philippines is not an area of the world I am very familiar with and I was looking forward to gaining an insight into the culture and some of the country’s history and culture. The book vividly describes the bustle, heat and culture of the Philippine setting. The characters initially seem compelling when we meet them, however, I did not feel like I got to know them by the end of the novel. The filmmaker, Chiara, is mysterious to the point of being completely unknowable. The other main character Magsalin, is easier to get a grip on but she still managed to slip through my fingers. I enjoyed the flashbacks to Chiara’s parents and felt these were the most interesting characters in the novel although again, I felt their motivations were impossible to grasp.Ultimately my main issue with this novel was the writing style which I found almost unfathomable. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but there were passages that I read and re-read multiple times and still failed to fully understand. The writing style is rather overwrought, and I struggled to comprehend what was happening at certain points in the novel. I appreciate that this is my personal preference, others may enjoy this aspect of it. On balance, this novel had some enjoyable parts to it and I can honestly say that it is quite unlike anything I have ever read. It is a vibrant and interesting novel, but not one that spoke to me personally.
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  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    I really wanted to like this but I found it impenetrable at times. Apostol has used the stories of two modern women to tell the story of atrocities at Balangiga in 1901. There's a lot going on between Chiara the filmmaker, Magsalin who translates and rewrites her script, and the history of the Philippines. The language is dense at times and flowing at others, which made this a challenge. Ultimately and unfortunately, I DNF. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Try this if you enjoy experimental fict I really wanted to like this but I found it impenetrable at times. Apostol has used the stories of two modern women to tell the story of atrocities at Balangiga in 1901. There's a lot going on between Chiara the filmmaker, Magsalin who translates and rewrites her script, and the history of the Philippines. The language is dense at times and flowing at others, which made this a challenge. Ultimately and unfortunately, I DNF. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Try this if you enjoy experimental fiction.
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  • Cecily Sailer
    January 1, 1970
    This is metafiction at an artisanal level. A gorgeous, haunting, harrowing take on American imperialism in the Philippines, refracted through the lens of two female filmmakers with competing narratives of power, victimization, cultural exchange/appropriation, and memory. Apostol's fiction is expert, both ruthless and gentle, an invitation to see through multiple layers of meaning. I loved many things about this book, but will emphasize two of them here: 1) The attempt to see and understand histo This is metafiction at an artisanal level. A gorgeous, haunting, harrowing take on American imperialism in the Philippines, refracted through the lens of two female filmmakers with competing narratives of power, victimization, cultural exchange/appropriation, and memory. Apostol's fiction is expert, both ruthless and gentle, an invitation to see through multiple layers of meaning. I loved many things about this book, but will emphasize two of them here: 1) The attempt to see and understand history and national influence through the lens of pop icons like Elvis and Muhammad Ali--the societal meaning attached to both, in the U.S. and the Philippines, and the question of "ownership" over such cultural fixtures. 2) The unearthing of a hidden, powerful female figure who played a key role in the rebellion and resistance enacted by Filipinos during American occupation. ... A truly astonishing, thought-provoking novel.
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  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    God, I love Gina Apostol. The book is nervy, erudite, and ambitious in its exploration of American imperialism in the Philippines, the massacre in Samar, and the current political climate in the country. I'm not entirely sure the tough balancing act she's doing is always pulled off, and I found the ending a bit dissatisfying. Nevertheless, she's a Pinay-diaspora writer I'm always excited to read.
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  • Paltia
    January 1, 1970
    Gina Apostol’s knowledge seems infinite. It surely left me feeling an uninformed idiot. This story reads like an elegantly choreographed dance performed in hell. Forty eight Americans were deemed equal to 30,000 Filipinos. A sickening war that like all wars goes beyond tragedy. A unique joining of two women in two different times. So that’s four women. The description of the mistress at the funeral is what all writers should hope to their god they achieve. This book feels like the blues.
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  • Kevin Tracey
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the beautiful language, and learning about another sordid chapter in American imperialism. I might not have the right kind of brain for this book as i found the narrative so confusing that I would not be able to summarize the story until the very end when the two protagonists explain it all a la the end of a Scooby-Doo episode. There was zero character development as well.
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  • Jee Koh
    January 1, 1970
    It restores my faith in the novel as a literary form.
  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    Insurrecto, by Gina Apostal, is a strange hybrid of a novel. It encapsulates the Balangiga Massacre of 1901 inside of the story of a woman trying to explore her auteur father’s disappearance through file, wrapped inside of a translator’s attempts to write a mystery novel about a famous woman director who visits Manila, Philippines. Confused? I suspect we’re supposed to be. But all this confusion left me with interesting thoughts about how labels color the stories we tell about history, and about Insurrecto, by Gina Apostal, is a strange hybrid of a novel. It encapsulates the Balangiga Massacre of 1901 inside of the story of a woman trying to explore her auteur father’s disappearance through file, wrapped inside of a translator’s attempts to write a mystery novel about a famous woman director who visits Manila, Philippines. Confused? I suspect we’re supposed to be. But all this confusion left me with interesting thoughts about how labels color the stories we tell about history, and about the ability of stories to shape reality for the audience...Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.
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  • hweatherfield
    January 1, 1970
    I really tried to enjoy this book (as it touches upon Filipino identity and history), something I can relate to as an American-Filipino. Unfortunately I just couldn't enjoy the writer's style - the unnecessarily flowery language and the constant choppiness of the perspective made it difficult to follow. I tried to understand and appreciate the characters, but their unending negativity (from both voices) made for an irritating narrative. I understand the topic called for some energy of criticism, I really tried to enjoy this book (as it touches upon Filipino identity and history), something I can relate to as an American-Filipino. Unfortunately I just couldn't enjoy the writer's style - the unnecessarily flowery language and the constant choppiness of the perspective made it difficult to follow. I tried to understand and appreciate the characters, but their unending negativity (from both voices) made for an irritating narrative. I understand the topic called for some energy of criticism, but it was almost unbearable reading them loathe each other chapter after chapter. I was also looking for some research about the Philippine-American war, but there really wasn't any. I took home an ARC of this from work, but I think I'll give it to someone else.
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  • Jenni
    January 1, 1970
    "The Philippine-American war is unremembered," concludes the story, and that was the unexpected, weightiest takeaway for me for reading this novel that is simultaneously hilarious, deliciously written, yet heartbreaking in so many ways. I borrowed this from the library, and it's going to be one of those rare books I buy a copy of, because I need to read this again - it is not a great read for when you're at all distracted due to what at first seem like flashbacks but are actually, to boil it dow "The Philippine-American war is unremembered," concludes the story, and that was the unexpected, weightiest takeaway for me for reading this novel that is simultaneously hilarious, deliciously written, yet heartbreaking in so many ways. I borrowed this from the library, and it's going to be one of those rare books I buy a copy of, because I need to read this again - it is not a great read for when you're at all distracted due to what at first seem like flashbacks but are actually, to boil it down to a very simple description, two different stories written by two women working together on a film project, tied into the Balangiga Massacre. In addition to tying the bloody history of the Philippines to its modern day police brutality, Apostol manages to also address how it feels like to find yourself living between cultures and being able to look at your home from an outsider's perspective, while still having insider knowledge that very few seem to care about. Because I am not just a person who unremembers the Philippine-American war but someone who has been blissfully ignorant of it and never heard of the Balangiga Massacre, I ended up looking up information online while I was reading (yet another distraction from the novel, but worthy of it!) because my ignorance couldn't tell me what was fact, and what was part of historical fiction that the two fictional characters in the novel were spinning. Not only did Insurrecto entertain in the best way a novel can by engaging the reader in joys, tears, guffaws, and overall incredulity at the world, it also educated me.
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  • lisa
    January 1, 1970
    I have a five star read, and it's the first book I've read this year!!!!It is difficult to describe this novel because it's a bunch of things at once, and I was almost halfway through it before I figured out its structure. Chiara and Magsalin are two women who couldn't be more different, and so of course, they will see history from different views, and they will tell the same story in completely different ways. Chiara wants to write a screenplay about the Philippine-American war, specifically th I have a five star read, and it's the first book I've read this year!!!!It is difficult to describe this novel because it's a bunch of things at once, and I was almost halfway through it before I figured out its structure. Chiara and Magsalin are two women who couldn't be more different, and so of course, they will see history from different views, and they will tell the same story in completely different ways. Chiara wants to write a screenplay about the Philippine-American war, specifically the Balangiga Massacre. She needs Magsalin to come along on a scouting trip as her interpreter. Magsalin can't help but resent white, wealthy Chiara who wants so much to tell the story of the history of Magsalin's country, but for reasons of her own, she agrees to help. However, she decides to secretly rewrite Chiara's screenplay.This book stunned me with its portrayal of Filipino history, and the brutality of American troops against the Filipinos. The story is a sad, old one of colonization, and the horrors of war, but it is well written, with a fresh voice that changed subtly from chapter to chapter. (Which makes it easier to keep track of whose story each chapter is in.) The author pokes fun at Filipino accents, and American assumptions. The characters grow into different people over the course of the book. I had a hard time putting this book down.I am thrilled to discover another Filipina author, and look forward to reading her other books!
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  • Atharv G.
    January 1, 1970
    This book was definitely unlike anything I've ever read before, but I'm still not sure how to feel about it. It almost didn't even feel like a novel, and I think other reviewers' description of this text as a "kaleidoscope" fits better. There are multiple timelines woven together in this book, each one dealing in some way with the Balangiga Massacre during the Philippine-American War. A fascinating choice that the author made was that characters in each timeline had counterparts in other timelin This book was definitely unlike anything I've ever read before, but I'm still not sure how to feel about it. It almost didn't even feel like a novel, and I think other reviewers' description of this text as a "kaleidoscope" fits better. There are multiple timelines woven together in this book, each one dealing in some way with the Balangiga Massacre during the Philippine-American War. A fascinating choice that the author made was that characters in each timeline had counterparts in other timelines, although I'm not sure how much further this went than just having very similar names. Additionally, perspective seemed to me a very important theme in the novel, as exemplified by the term "Balangiga Massacre." Depending on the perspective, the massacre can refer to either the early morning killings of U.S. soldiers by Balangiga citizens or the U.S. military's retaliation, which killed thousands of civilians. Tying into perspective, several of the central characters are screen-writers, and characters often openly question whose story is being told and who it is being told to. While this book provides lots of food for thought, I do feel that this novel's unusual structure didn't quite work for me.
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