Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Harper (September 23, 2014)
A copy provided in exchange for an honest review
An enthralling literary debut that evokes one of the most momentous events in history, the birth of printing in medieval Germany—a story of invention, intrigue, and betrayal, rich in atmosphere and historical detail, told through the lives of the three men who made it possible.
Christie exhaustively and brilliantly shares the story of Johannes Gutenberg’s moveable type invention and implementation, along with key players allowing this endeavor possible. Christie’s writing style is meticulous and sharp, difficult to comprehend this literary masterpiece is her debut. Undoubtedly she is a gifted writer worthy of following. Anticipating her next undertaking, she’s set the bar high.
The birthplace of moveable type Mainz, Germany 1450’s. No secret the Middle Ages were brutal. Christie leaves a breadcrumb trail with just enough to feed the reader with the difficulty of the time period. You understand the harshness and hardships without the author droning on.
The story fails to solely focus on Johannes Gutenberg, rather two other important figures responsible for moveable type. Three main protagonists – Johannes Gutenberg, Johann Furst, along with his foster son Peter Schoeffer all wonderfully developed serving as the hub of the narrative. Christie provides painstaking detail in the trios interactions, personalities and ethics. As with any group effort, these three are not exempt from their share of trials and occasional joys. On going conflicts take their toll and you question how these three very differing men changed the world. The three protagonists pull their weight, the level of frustration and empathy varied with each character. All were whiny man babies, I found myself tempted, on more than a few occasions, to strangle them from between the lines. Differences aside, they managed to change the world profoundly.
The narrative explicitly dives into the machinations of creating moveable type. No surprise religion, politics played their role and served as unwanted and additional challenges. Thoroughly presented, Christie does not spare the rod on extensive details in the personal and professional lives of the characters. You are well versed on the many sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears involved. The momentum grows as the story progresses, along with an array of complications and the beast of betrayal.
Christie masterfully converges fiction and nonfiction merging on the precipice of educational sans boring element. I was engrossed, characters added a spark to what could have been mundane. A fascinating read, provoking.
Amazing how print and publishing forever changed the world. As you read Christie’s novel you are propelled in the bowels of this monstrous and monumental undertaking. The journey is appreciated as this bibliophile understands the magnitude Gutenberg el al endured. Christie scrawls a literary riveting story reflecting on an invention forever altering all the world.
About Alix Christie
Alix Christie was born in California, spent her childhood summers in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, and has lived in Paris, San Francisco, and Berlin. She has been a widely published journalist for thirty years, with work featured in the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, The Guardian, Salon, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her short fiction has been published by Southwest Review and Other Voices. A letterpress printer since her youth, Alix Christie currently lives in London, where she reviews books and the arts for The Economist.
Thrilled to be participating in the tour for Alix Christie’s Gutenberg Apprentice, be sure to check out the entire tour schedule here, it runs through 17 October. Thank you TLC