Chloe Aridjis: Book of Clouds (3 stars)

Book of Clouds

The Scottish climate comes in for a fair bit of stick but if Book of Clouds is to be believed, there’s more to dreichness than we think. Chloe Aridjis’ Berlin is awash with the wet stuff, from torrential downpours to misty masses. Tatiana is a young Mexican woman working in the German capital (like Aridjis) transcribing treatises by a German intellectual on the psycho-geography of contemporary Berlin.

Her role develops beyond that of mere cipher for Aridjis’ theories when mythological aspects (ghostly footsteps, a sighting of the aged Hitler, a timely fog white-out) creep into the tale and clouds become part of an extended metaphor about Berlin’s historical legacy. Weaving a tale in the tradition of magical realism, Aridjis steers away from clunky didacticism and all-out supernatural fun, which leaves her without a solid ground for conclusions. While the novel is engaging and charming the result is ultimately as insubstantial as Scotch Mist.

(Chatto & Windus)

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