Elizabeth McKenzie – The Portable Veblen

Veblen is different. Talking to animals and listening to their advice seems natural to her. An amateur translator of Norwegian, she lives in her own world in which only her mother – hypochondriac and very obsessive – regularly enters to exert control over her grown-up daughter. Paul is also different, grown up with a handicapped brother he always came second and thus already as a kid discovered the universe of science in which he can completely indulge. Their first encounter immediately leads to an unbelievable connection which quite necessarily ends in marriage. But dark clouds arise and both of them have to question the decision to spend their life together.
Elizabeth McKenzie’s novel cleverly swings between funny and serious. The characters are quite unique, there cannot really be a Veblen or Paul in reality, too strange and individualistic are both of them, but the problems they are loaded with – especially when it comes to family relations and stress or presser exerted by the parents – they show feature many of us cannot not only comprehend but know from their own life.
What I liked especially were Veblen’s discussions with the squirrels. Not only were the scenes hilarious but also the dialogues show McKenzie’s capacities of finding the perfect words. Not to forget the appendices when normally the book is over and you just skip the pages – here you absolutely should not do it because the story has some follow-up to offer (such as saying “squirrel” in more than 50 languages).

All in all, a very entertaining novel to read with certainly outstanding characters you will hardly find anywhere else combined with an underlying seriousness.
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