In the aftermath of 9/11, and grieving his uncle’s suicide, Tee flees from his adopted home in America and heads to Prague. There he meets Pavel, an artist famous for his part in the Velvet Revolution, and Pavel’s alluring wife, Katka. As a flood makes its way through the city, Tee contemplates his own identity and place in the world.
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I was sent an e-copy of ‘The Hundred Year Flood‘* for review purposes, but the opinions in this piece are all my own.
Some novels, like ‘Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Cafe‘ grab me just as soon as I start to read them, and never let go. Some, like ‘Pride and Prejudice’, never actually get me fired up, and my interest dwindles lower and lower with every page.
And then you get the ones in between. The ones that start off slow-burning, and end up being an intense experience that leave me ready to start reading all over again. ‘The Hundred Year Flood’ falls into this final group.
Set shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, ‘The Hundred Year Flood’ is the story of Tee, who was born in Korea and adopted by an American couple. At the start of the novel, Tee’s uncle has just committed suicide and Tee has fled to Prague, wondering what his place in the world really is. There he meets three characters who are larger than life: Pavel, an artist who was famous for his part in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, his wife Katka, and their friend Rockefeller.
In all honesty, I nearly put this book down a few times. Since my battle with ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I have a personal policy that if I’m not enjoying book by a quarter of the way through it, then I am not going to force the issue. And at first, this book just didn’t grab me.
Don’t get me wrong, Matthew Salesses’ writing is absolutely beautiful, but I just could not take to Tee. I felt that Tee was self-obsessed and self-indulgent, and if I don’t like the main character in a book, it’s difficult for me to keep on reading.
But something changed as the book went on. Although I still felt that Tee was self-indulgent, I was drawn in by his passion for Katka. And as Katka’s character developed, I became more and more engrossed in the book. As the flood engulfed Prague, the book became ever more captivating, and I was desperate to know what the outcome would be.
Above all, ‘The Hundred Year Flood’ is beautifully written, it feels very intense and intimate. The small cast of main characters are all very passionate people, and this comes across well in Matthew Salesses’ writing. As the characters developed through the book, I even came to understand and accept Tee’s self-obsession, and to feel sorry for all that had brought him to Prague. I went straight back to the beginning of the book, and on a re-read I had a totally different emotional reaction to his character.
This is a beautiful and passionate book, and reading it had a deep emotional effect on me – 8/10