Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bricks - Leon Jenner


About the book

This is the story of a bricklayer. A master of his craft, he keeps its sacred teachings secret. For him a house is the dwelling place of a soul, and a house must be built in the right spirit or the soul inside it will suffer. The building of an arch is a ritual to obtain a right relation with the earth and a connection with the truth. The bricklayer recalls his previous life as a Druid priest. He talks about the creation of the sacred landscape of these islands; how even a simple stick lying on the ground would tell people the direction they needed to go in; how when people stared at the stars, they were staring at their own mind. The reader sees the world through the eyes of this great, magical being at the time of the Roman invasion, and learns how he tricked Julius Caesar and set in train the series of events that would lead to Caesar's assassination on the Ides of March. But as the bricklayer continues, he worries he is losing his ancient, sacred powers. The vision begins to fray at the edges as we learn how he has recently taken violent revenge on yobs who have mocked him. Is he really connected to a once living Druid priest, or is he gradually losing himself in his own fantasies?

136 pages (hardcover)
Published on: August 4, 2011
Published by: Coronet Books

Thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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I don’t really know where to start with Bricks. When I was asked whether or not I’d like to review this book, I jumped on it. The idea the author was presenting with this work impressed me and peaked my curiosity. I didn’t notice how short it was, nor do I think the length would have altered my desire to read it. I was, however, surprised when I saw that the book itself is around 130 pages, 105 of which are the actual story. The production is high end. The cover art is beautiful; the quality of the book itself is impressive. I was excited to start reading it and hoped that the quality of the writing and plot itself matched the physical quality of the book.

There, I guess, is the problem.

Let me clarify. There isn’t really a problem with Jenner’s writing style. In fact, he has a talent with words that truly shows. Some of the passages in this book are absolutely beautiful. However, some of them are rather clunky and overall his writing does lack a certain finesse and subtlety that I generally enjoy in novels. For example, I often felt like I was being hit over the head with the same point over and over again throughout the book. I’m not sure if this would have been a less acute annoyance if Bricks had been longer, allowing more room for what Jenner was trying to say so he could be subtler with his overall message(s).

The main issue I have with Bricks is best described by my reaction to the book by the time I got to chapter four. When I reached this point, I had to put the book down before continuing. I was seriously scratching my head wondering whether this was a novel or an essay that the author had tried to turn into a novel. The reason I say this is because there really isn’t any conversation between characters to speak of throughout the book or any catching plot. It’s one vague, mysterious individual thinking (or maybe discussing with himself) the events of his life(s) and important moments in history. Interspersed in this is alternative spirituality/pseudo religious/earth-toned philosophical musings. I often felt like Jenner could have done a better job if he had just written what he was trying to say rather than beating around the bush with a shadowy figure who may or may not actually be building something on some mysterious landscape while musing on a past he may or may not have actually experienced.

In the last chapter, Jenner drops all pretenses at a story and blatantly says what he is trying to say. I found this to be both refreshing in the fact that he was no longer trying to couch his message in the musings of some illusive figure, but also incredibly slap-you-in-the-face blunt and absolutely lacking finesse. The problem with commentary like this is that it will do nothing but divide the audience. Many of the individuals who work their way through this book won’t find the end message appealing at all, nor will they find the spiritual mumbo-jumbo pleasing, either. This could easily leave many potential readers, and fans of the author with a sour taste in their mouth and will seriously diminish and divide the overall audience Bricks will appeal to.

Perhaps I would feel differently about this book if it were longer, allowing many of these not-so-subtle ideas Jenner was trying to discuss a little more palatable and a little subtler. Perhaps more pages, more dialogue, characters the reader could easily care about and become engaged with could help me enjoy Bricks. However, as it was, I enjoyed much of Jenner’s style, and do feel as though the author himself shows serious promise as a writer, but do not enjoy this book. It was too clumsy and too short to handle the deeper meanings put forth here. Jenner needed to decide if he was writing a book, or writing an opinion essay and really pour himself into either decision made. The wishy-washy, “what is this supposed to be” feel of Bricks was, perhaps, the most frustrating part of the whole novel. Bricks will appeal to a certain audience, as the 250,000 audio listeners attest. I guess I’m just not one of them. 

And hey, maybe I just completely missed the point of this entire book. 


1 comment:

  1. I agree completely. Jenner has a good style, but it wasn't used in the right way. It doesn't actually feel like you're reading a story, just a 130 page rant. Jenner's got skill, he just needs to use it to write an actual story.

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