When I was reading All Souls Day I was reminded of those obscure European art house films I used to watch when I was in my early twenties. Slightly weird, interesting and yet lacks something in order to be truly loved.
Arthur Daane is a director of documentaries and treats is life as one whole film that is waiting to be captured on camera. Although he has travelled to some places around the Earth his favourite city is Berlin and while he walks he notices (and films) the details and soaks in the city’s rich history. He also meets his two eccentric friends Arno and Victor and they discuss life food, art and history.
The reason Arthur travels and notices details in the places he goes to is because his wife and son have died in a plane crash ten years earlier and he sees his obsessions as a from of escape.
All goes well until Arthur falls in love and he goes on another adventure which is completely life changing.
The main theme is history, especially Berlin’s. Nooteboom makes sure to squeeze in every aspect of pre wall era Berlin and I liked this aspect of the book. The romantic sub plot works as well and gives the novel an extra dimension. Even the inclusion of a narrator who breaks the fourth wall and tells us about the future of some of the characters is a great idea.
Yet I found it difficult to be absorbed in the story. I definitely did not get bored and neither is the translation off-putting. I just felt that it lacked one more thing and I’m still debating on what it is. True some of the characters aren’t that fully fleshed out but we sympathise with Arthur very easily. I don’t know what it is and it’s still bothering me a bit.
Another thing the paperback version is out of print but you can buy the hardback one at the Book Depository (although I opted for the paperback at abebooks.co.uk)