The Visible World

Mark Slouka, Author . Houghton Mifflin $24 (242p) ISBN 978-0-618-75643-8

Slouka's urgent second novel (following God's Fool ) comes in three parts. The first relates the nameless narrator's growing up in postwar New York and Pennsylvania as the child of college journalism instructor Antonín and Ivana Sedlák, Czech émigrés whose marriage is slowly disintegrating. The reason, of which the young narrator is aware from an early age, is that Ivana loves another man, killed in Czechoslovakia during WWII. The despondent Ivana watches soap operas and chain-smokes until, at age 64 in 1984, she walks in front of the Allentown bus. The slimmer middle section chronicles the narrator quitting his job two years later, moving to Prague and poking into his parents' wartime past there. The final, longest section crackles with the novel's main tale. Having pieced together enough of his parents' history, the narrator "imagines" the rest. Crucially, it involves the actual assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler's ruthless local military governor, on May 27, 1942. As part of a daring plan, Czech patriot assassins are parachuted in by the RAF; the injured Heydrich later dies of blood poisoning. The Nazi bloodbath that follows includes the infamous liquidation of the village of Lidice. The suspense is well paced, and the action scenes are vividly recounted. Slouka's novel has a poignant verve. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 12/04/2006
Release date: 04/01/2007
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