New book alert! The Wonderful and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana has recently been translated into English and will be released on May 5! I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced copy (digital because of everything going on) to read.
The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is so hard to describe because it is so unique! The novel follows twins Ivan and Ivana from childhood to young adulthood. They are born in Guadeloupe to a single mother. Their father was a traveling musician from Mali. From birth the twins have an otherworldly bond, which grows from a young sibling love where they always needed to be near each other to a love for each other that scares and tortures them with its inappropriateness as they get older.
The hardships of their lives, particularly for Ivan, takes them on a whirlwind of a journey from Guadeloupe to Mali to Paris and, again for Ivan, a few stops in between. Their love for each other is the one constant and the one thing that is forbidden. Torn apart by their differing life experiences – Ivana sees the good and beauty in the world while her brother Ivan has been beaten down by setbacks in life which leave him susceptible to being groomed by radicals and terrorists. Despite their different lives and views on the world, they are forever bonded – right to the very end.
Not only is the story unique, but the way that it is written is different and beautiful. The best way I can describe it is like one of those quirky tv shows where there is a narrator telling you everything that is going on like Pushing Daisies or Jane the Virgin. It is funny because the topics are so serious – forbidden love, sexual relations, terrorism, racism, clash of cultures, religion, etc. and yet the narrator speaks to us as an omniscient figure. For example, at one part the narrator says, “And what about Ivana, you are asking? What has become of her? Forgive me, dear reader. It’s because she is not involved in this business as much as her brother.”
The way Condé writes is also so dreamlike and beautiful. Her storytelling and words flow into one another seamlessly like there are no breaks and within minutes you find yourself immersed and going along for the ride with Ivan and Ivana. It is really special.
I found the novel so interesting and it makes you really think about the different forms of love. Condé puts it best when she writes, “love is the pureness of the heart.”
Condé’s beautiful form of storytelling hooks readers and takes them on the wondrous journey of Ivan and Ivana that told by anyone else would be simply a sad, tragic story. There is magic in the beauty she weaves into the tragic.
*I was sent this book complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post also contains an affiliate link.*