Stephen King

Hearts in Atlantis

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This review is based upon the German translation by Peter Robert.

In the summer of 1960 eleven year old Bobby Garfield's most ardent wish is a bicycle. When Ted Brautigan, an elderly, unmarried gentleman, moves into their house, he asks Bobby if he would like to read to him for a little fee because his eyes allegedly aren't very good. Bobby's mother warily watches their developing friendship. In fact, Ted seems to be a strange man, from time to time he has inexplicable blackouts and tells Bobby to look out for evil men in yellow coats. He will remember this summer of 1960 with his friends John "Sully" Sullivan and Carol Gerber for a long time.

This was a summary of the first part of "Hearts in Atlantis", and when I continued, I had the impression to find myself in a completely different story. The different parts of this 600-page book are only loosely connected by the fact that they relate episodes in the lives of the men playing a role in Carol Gerber's life. Carol herself is only present in the first part of the book, which is set in 1960, in the following parts she is only a shadow in the background, sometimes even a fantasy of the male protagonists. Hearts in Atlantis got its title from the second part of the novel describing the life of a gang of young men at an American college at the end of the Sixties. Instead of studying, they spend most of their time playing Hearts, though they know exactly that there is only one way for them to escape the hell of the Vietnam War: they have to stay in college no matter what. Not all of them succeed in doing so. Like the mystical continent of Atlantis vanished from the surface of earth, their world is slowly falling apart.

Even though I don't remember the sixties very well - I was still a child at the time - I think Stephen King did a good job recreating the atmosphere: the seeming idyll of a small town, the fear of the college students to be drafted into service in Vietnam, and finally the memories of the veterans. I thought it was a depressing book and I had to put it down more than once and read something else instead. It certainly isn't a "typical" King, the fantastic component which is the hallmark of his books is only present in the first part, the rest is frighteningly realistic. I have to admit that it is well written, but it's definitely not my cup of tea.

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Last changes21-11-04

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