Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* In this dazzling debut novel, Syjuco portrays the history, politics, and arts of his native Philippines in the semiautobiographical story of two Filipino authors both members of the ilustrado, or intelligentsia living in New York. Once the literary lion of his home country, Crispin Salvador is teaching and working on his breakthrough exposé novel, The Bridges Ablaze, when his body washes up in the Hudson River. Wanting to know whether his mentor committed suicide or was murdered, his student and friend (who, like the author, is named Syjuco) sets out on a quest that takes him back to the Philippines for both the truth and the missing manuscript. In this literary collage of Salvador's work (fiction, memoir, and poetry), interviews, the biography of him in progress by his acolyte Syjuco, e-mails, blogs, old school jokes, and a bizarre hostage situation that captures the Filipino imagination and is threaded through the novel the lives of the two writers become intertwined. As an unpublished manuscript, Ilustrado won both the Palanca Grand Prize, the Philippines' highest literary award, and the Man Asian Literary Award in 2008. It is a virtuoso display of imagination and wisdom, particularly remarkable from a 31-year-old author; a literary landmark for the Philippines and beyond.--Leber, Michele Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Prize before it was even published, this dizzying and ambitious novel marks an auspicious start to Syjuco's career. The apparent suicide of famous, down-on-his-luck Filipino author Crispin Salvador sends narrator Miguel Syjuco home to the Philippines to come to terms with the death of his literary mentor, research a biography he plans to write about him, and find the author's lost manuscript. With flair and grace, Syjuco makes this premise bear much weight: the multigenerational saga of Salvador's life, a history of the postwar Philippines, questions of literary ambitions and achievement, and the narrator's own coming-of-age story. The expansive scope is tightly structured as a series of fragments: excerpts of Salvador's works, found documents, Miguel's narration of his return to the Philippines, blogs about contemporary terrorist incidents in Manila, and even a series of jokes that tell the story of a Filipino immigrant to America. Though murky at times, this imaginative first novel shows considerable ingenuity in binding its divergent threads into a satisfying, meaningful story. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
The title of this first novel, winner of the 2008 MAN Asian Literary Prize and the Palanca Grand Prize, refers to the Philippine middle class and is a central motif in Syjuco's narrative. The story begins with the suicide of the great Filipino writer Crispin Salvador, found floating in the Hudson River. His protege and biographer, Miguel, ends up reconstructing Crispin's life as he seeks to uncover the details of his mysterious death and the whereabouts of a last, unfinished novel about the corruption in the Philippines. Written in the voice of both main characters, the plot unfolds through sections of Crispin's published work, imagined magazine interviews, and snippets of Miguel's incomplete biography. Crispin offers a historical portrait of the Philippines and its deteriorating creative class, while Miguel simultaneously travels through the modern-day Philippines, pursuing the truth about Crispin. VERDICT Through his vivid use of language, Syjuco has crafted a beautiful work of historical fiction that's part mystery and part sociopolitical commentary. Readers who enjoyed Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao will enjoy this literary gem. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/10.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.