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  • By MAR
    Jan 6, 2011
    The very best thing about "The Substitute" has to be its plot. It is one of the most ingenious stories I have read in a long while. The premise might seem at the beginning a bit like a cliché, complete with stereotypical characters: beautiful, submissive, orphan boy meets and falls in love with gorgeous, dominating, rich male. However, do not allow yourself to be misled by the first chapter or two, do not fall into the trap of the story’s apparent predictability, keep reading, because without us, the readers, truly noticing it, from page one--literally from page one--the author is weaving around us a complex story, full of mystery and intrigue. A veritable tour de force. The basic argument, as I mentioned before, seems overused: Guntram de Lisle is a nineteen-years-old introverted orphan. Konrad von Lintorff is forty-four, a German duke, and a banker. While backpacking through Europe with a friend, naïve Guntram attracts Konrad's attention and is promptly swept... More > off his feet by the older man’s charisma. As far as romantic dramas go, there appears to be nothing new. Nevertheless, gentle, innocent Guntram lives a life steeped in secrets of which he is unaware, and might well destroy him. Charismatic, prince-like Konrad deals with more than just trust funds. Their relationship should be perfect; instead, it is marred by the ghost of Konrad’s former lover. And, in the background, the author draws with painstaking detail a XXI century world dominated by global economics (here is a story that from time to time has the World Economic Forum at Davos as a setting) and Machiavellian ideals. A world where, quoting a comment made by the author: “there are worst things than a drug-dealer, for example, a banker.” One of the most thought-provoking elements in the story were the power differential it establishes between Guntram and Konrad, and the shadow it casts over their relationship. At the beginning of this review I described them (on purpose) as submissive and dominant, respectively. I say "on purpose", because these definitions are not exactly accurate, or, what is the same, I was purposely incorrect. Why? Because I find it difficult to classify this story in terms of power relationships, although there's no mistake whatsoever that power differentials are key to many of the events that take place in it, and I would like other readers to feel equally challenged when it comes to label-attachment: after all, life--and love--is not black and white. Guntram is by no means lower-class, yet Konrad is so beyond any upper-class person level that, compared to him, Guntram is a virtual pauper. Even though their relationship can be described in terms of dominant and submissive, this would grossly oversimplify the dynamics of their association. Konrad position of authority is not limited to the bedroom, and Guntram's submission is equal parts personal decision, imposition, and fealty. On top of that, there are political undercurrents at work that affect Konrad and Guntram's relationship in ways that are beyond their control. Not to mention the skeletons in Konrad's closet and the questions they pose: What’s honor? What’s truth? What’s love? What’s obsession? What’s forgiveness? What’s betrayal? I think these challenging dichotomies and moral dilemmas are some of the things that make this novel so unique and its reading so worthwhile. A word of caution, though, for the linguistically finicky: the author is not a native English-speaker, and although her command of the language is exceptionally good (some of the dialogues are amazing in their effortless-ness), there will be some grammar and vocabulary mistakes, and the reader will find some awkward paragraphs here and there. However, I truly believe the merits of the story far out-weigh the sparse linguistic mistakes. Also, Guntram has such an idiosyncratic narrative voice that even his linguistic faux pas add to his build-up as a character. Personally speaking, I find it very interesting how the language errors seem to add a touch of realism to the voice of the narrator. This might be because the story is written from the point of view of a character who is not an English native-speaker, and who interacts with characters who are also not English native-speakers (they are Argentinean, German, Swizz, Russian, Serbian, etc.), themselves. So that, in order to communicate, all characters must speak in a language (English) which is not their own, and in such context mistakes, I think, are inevitable. ...So, what are you waiting for? Go on, read it, you know you want to.< Less
  • By Thuly
    Jul 23, 2010
    This is probably one of the best book I've bought online. The book had me hook from page one when I found myself intrigue in the world that Guntram was describing. Just like the summary described, Guntram is only a harmless lamb trying to live in a world with every wolves wanting to take a bite of him. With the book written in diary form from Guntram's point of view, readers can easily get attach to the characters. I definitely get attached to the characters and the story that it was borderline obsession. While the book seem simple at first glance, there are secrets, lies, and deceptions being weaved in the book since the first chapter. It's a total raging storm underneath. Just like a quote from the author, "One piece of advise; believe a 50% of Konrad stories.... he loves to leave things out of the picture or to divert the attention." The book will take its readers on a hell of a roller coaster ride before finally coming to the reason behind its title.
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Product Details

ISBN
9781446659922
Edition
Third Edition
Publisher
Tionne Rogers
Published
December 17, 2011
Language
English
Pages
656
Binding
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
Weight
2.25 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6.14 wide x 9.21 tall
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