Books Enhanced by Their Structures

The way in which authors decide to structure their books may have a huge impact on the final result. I’m unsure if structure is the correct term. But I mean the choices that writers make in terms of the order and the manner in which the narrative is presented to the readers, or the form used to tell a specific story.

There are three books, which I read in the latest years, whose structures were one of the highlights of my reading experience. I’m certain I wouldn’t have liked them as much as I did if the story had been told in a different way.


Jerusalém by Gonçalo M. Tavares

In this novel, the Portuguese writer Gonçalo M. Tavares delves into insanity and horror. The story is told from the perspectives of various characters – Ernst, Mylia, Theodor, Hanna and Hinnerk – and doesn’t follow a strict chronological order. The actions of the characters are not revealed in sequence but when they are useful for the narration. Each chapter reveals more information about either the past or the present, which helps the reader understand how the characters are connected with one another. This enhanced the story, because it kept me curious and guessing. Continue reading

‘Jerusalém’ by Gonçalo M. Tavares

My rating: 4 stars

What are the characteristics of insanity? While reading Jerusalém by the Portuguese author Gonçalo M. Tavares (a translation into English is available with the same title), that was the question that kept crossing my mind. The sane characters physically and emotionally hurt others on purpose, whilst some of the mentally ill looked for love and a more fulfilling life. Insanity and horror are the main subjects delved into in this short novel, which follows various characters whose paths crossed on specific occasions.

The story is told from several points of view in the third person and doesn’t follow a strict chronological order. Each chapter gradually presents the reader with more information that connects the characters introduced beforehand with one another. Ernst, Mylia, Theodor, Hanna and Hinnerk’s paths crossed at different points in time, and their lives were all interconnected, although they didn’t fully realise it.

Ernst Spengler was about to commit suicide by jumping from a window when his phone rang. Despite hesitating, he decided to pick it up. On the other side of the line was Mylia. She was seriously ill and in pain. Nevertheless, she had decided to leave the house during the night to look for an open church. She behaved in a strange way, but the author’s approach to convey her actions makes her thought process almost seem reasonable. The pain in the stomach kept getting worse. She only had time to phone Ernst before fainting. The extent of their relationship is only revealed further on into the book. Continue reading