I bought this book back in late summer and started it almost immediately. But just as immediately as I started I stopped again as well. Other books, work, other things all got in the way and it wasn't until early this year that I picked the book up again.
The blurb: Matthieu Zéla has lived his life well. In fact, he's lived several lives well. Because Matthieu Zéla's life is characterised by one amazing fact: his body stopped ageing before the end of the eighteenth century.
Starting in 1758, a young Matthieu flees Paris after witnessing his mother's brutal murder. His only companions are his younger brother Tomas and one true love, Dominique Sauvet. The story of his life takes us from the French Revolution to 1920's Hollywood, from the Great Exhibition to the Wall Street Crash, and by the end of the twentieth century, Matthieu has been an engineer, a rogue, a movie mogul, a soldier, a financier, a lover to many, a cable TV executive and much more besides.
Brilliantly weaving history and personal experience, this is a dazzling story of love, murder, missed chances, treachery - and redemption.
This book is the first book by Irish writer John Boyne, who recently claimed fame with his book 'the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', and it was quite rightly being published again after the fame of that book. Because this first book is brilliant. The combination of real life characters (Robespierre, Charlie Chaplin to name but two) and fiction is great, as is the switch between current day and past. Matthieu Zéla stays on the side of things, never really getting involved with history as we know it, but he gives you glimpses of that history, telling his story. He also tells the story of his brother and consecutive (great) nephews all named after his brother. Sometimes the brother/nephew is prominently in the story, other times he is just a line on the side, but always necessary for the story.
There was only one thing I wondered about: at one point in the book Matthieu states that it was a certain year where he felt he stopped ageing, but once the story in that time took place, not another mention of it, which I felt was a shame. Other than that it was a highly enjoyable book and showed John Boyne as a very good writer. A big thumbs up from me!!