One Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen
Book of the Month
Vicissitude: A change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.
Charles Dickens collides with Haruki Murakami in a pulsating tale of history, redemption and revenge.
I have always - ever since my teenage days - had a fascination with Japan. The rich history, the customs, the honour, just the way in which everything is so wonderfully different from life in the UK. And the 2 weeks I managed to spend there a few years ago only served to double my interest in the country and so I always find myself helplessly drawn towards works of fiction that have The Land of the Rising Sun as a direct influence (Haruki Murakami's works have been a most welcome companion on my daily commute thanks to the wonder of audio-books).
Unfortunately, I no longer have as much time to read as much I would like so I only offer to read and review books that there is a very, very good chance that I will love. One Hundred Years of Vicissitude appealed to me straight away and, despite already having too many books on the pending list, I just had to ask for a copy. You just can't let good books pass you by.
So what is the story about? Well, to explain the sentence on the third line of this review: The Charles Dickens part is courtesy of the way the book flips between important historical events in the life of the two major characters, Wolram and Kohana, as we are shown events in a way reminiscent of Scrooge and the three ghosts. The Murakami part is due to a) the book being set in Japan and b) the author's detailed and loving telling of the character's lives. For me, Murakami, and another favourite of mine, Stephen King, are the best writers at giving ordinary people extraordinary life stories, and in One Hundred Years of Vicissitude Bergen is able to achieve the same, channelling his influences into one seriously great book.
Did I just mention influences? Any who have read King and Murakami know that these authors load their books with references to the music, books, films and people that have impacted upon their lives and Bergen does exactly the same here. By the end of it I had probably been on Wikipedia a dozen times to look up specific events, such as the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945, and had a list as long as my arm containing books I must read and films I must see. And I think this is a great experience to have while reading and I found myself wiser in many ways after the last page turned.
But first back to the beginning, where the narrative is taken up by a man that has obviously ceased-to-be:
"First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed- up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departure from the mortal coil. I recall a gun was involved, pressed up against my skull, and a loud explosion followed."
And from this point we journey into a kind of in-between-world, a limbo where restless spirits are able to reconcile themselves with their own memories, and thus begins a purgatorial tour through twentieth-century Japanese history with a ghostly geisha who has seen it all as a guide and a corrupt millionaire as her reluctant companion.
The phrase that remained with me long after finishing was "history is written by the victors". As a child growing up in the UK I was always given a very black and white history of the Second World War. Brits and Yanks = good, Germans and Japanese = bad. Nothing is ever quite this simple and I cherish books like this, and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, for showing the hardships suffered by the ordinary people in Germany and Japan during World War II, showing them as being no different from those on the "good" side.
This book is by turns educational, inspiring, traumatic and humorous. It is also one of the best books I have read this year. So, if you are looking for an extremely alternate take on a Christmas Carol this festive period, then Andrez Bergen's One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is an absolute must.
About the author
Andrez Bergen is an expatriate Australian journalist, musician, photographer, DJ, artist, some-time filmmaker, wayward graphic designer, and ad hoc beer and sake connoisseur who’s been entrenched in Tokyo, Japan, for the past 10 years. Under the alias of Industrial Form, he dabbled with graf, then moved on to audio/visual art installations for events put on by pioneering Melbourne experimental electronic music label IF? Records (which he now helms). He currently creates music under the pseudonyms Little Nobody and Funk Gadget. Bergen has also worked as a journalist over the past 17 years for newspapers such as The Age in Australia and the Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan, and he’s written for magazines as diverse as Mixmag, Geek Monthly, Impact and Anime Insider.
This One Hundred Years of Vicissitude book review was written by Floresiensis
Have you read One Hundred Years of Vicissitude?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
One Hundred Years of Vicissitude reader reviews
9/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking ...
Hats off to Brandenburg
London, 1815 – The Roxy Playhouse is in trouble! The Roxy Playhouse Irregulars, those libertine artists and dreamers, are up to their necks in debt – “Pay...
The Master and Margarita
Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious st...
Catherynne M Valente
Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, an...
Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side. Once the Oversight, the secret society that polices the lines betwee...
The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a ...
The Bear and the Nightingale
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes pres...
Nights at the Circus
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordin...
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of thi...
The War at Troy
The people who lived in those days were closer to gods than we are, and great deeds and marvels were commoner then, which is why the stories we have from them are nobler an...
The Golem and the Djinni
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, di...
Land of Hope and Glory
It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious...
Those Poor, Poor Bastards
The year is 1868... In the Sierra Nevada, during the expansion of the Central Pacific Railroad, Nina Weaver and her pa, Lincoln, trundle into Coburn Station with a wagonful...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Best of 2016
The Silver Mask
The gods and goddesses are dead, killed two hundred years ago. With their destruction the moon split apart, the sun dwindled and the land was devastated. Civilisation has re-e...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world. Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As the memories of her old life continue to haunt, she...
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her al...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...