ONE OF THE YEAR'S BEST BOOKS
The Wall Street Journal • Slate • Kansas City Star • Flavorwire • Policy Mic • Buzzfeed
“Necessary Errors is a very good novel, an enviably good one, and to read it is to relive all the anxieties and illusions and grand projects of one’s own youth.”—James Wood, The New Yorker
The exquisite debut novel by the author of Overthrow that brilliantly captures the lives and romances of young expatriates in newly democratic Prague
It’s October 1990. Jacob Putnam is young and full of ideas. He’s arrived a year too late to witness Czechoslovakia’s revolution, but he still hopes to find its spirit, somehow. He discovers a country at a crossroads between communism and capitalism, and a picturesque city overflowing with a vibrant, searching sense of possibility. As the men and women Jacob meets begin to fall in love with one another, no one turns out to be quite the same as the idea Jacob has of them—including Jacob himself.
Necessary Errors is the long-awaited first novel from literary critic and journalist Caleb Crain. Shimmering and expansive, Crain’s prose richly captures the turbulent feelings and discoveries of youth as it stretches toward adulthood—the chance encounters that grow into lasting, unforgettable experiences and the surprises of our first ventures into a foreign world—and the treasure of living in Prague during an era of historic change.
Crain reinvents the novel of the innocent abroad in his well-wrought debut. Fresh off the failure of his first relationship since coming out (at least to himself), Jacob relocates from Massachusetts to Prague, where he discovers a loose-knit community of expatriates, many of whom, like Jacob, teach English to Czechs. It s 1990, and Prague perhaps like Jacob and his friends is poised on the brink of changes it does not yet fully understand. Jacob, an aspiring writer, is both sensitive and observant, a witness to his friends romantic entanglements as well as the victim of heartbreak himself. The novel is full of the kinds of conversations shared by intelligent, earnest young people everywhere; the parallels between their idealism and uncertainty and those of their adopted country are handled with great skill. Being here is what you re doing, when you re here, Jacob observes to a friend; this freedom from responsibility and traditional aspirations is what both attracts Jacob and makes him uneasy. The unhurried pace and lack of conventional plot seem deliberate; instead, it s Jacob s ongoing redefining of exile and his discovery of self in an unfamiliar community that provide meaning and richness.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This is a thoughtful novel, but the typography for occasional Czech words and place names (on nearly every page) is a mess. Can't this be fixed?
A so so no plot - I don't know what
I gave this a 3 because the writing is descriptive, about a gay man but not being overly dependent on that as the point and where it takes place. It seems as a typical writer writing about a writer not able to write while living abroad. I keep reading it because I paid for it and usually finish a book I start. I'm looking for something else and when I do I'll put this aside after being 3/4 through.
AN UPDATE: I now think of this as Albert Camus like only not anywhere near the French master. Still reading....