Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann [4/10]

Daniel Kehlmann is a top German author and in “Tyll,” he employs the trope of the eternal trickster, in this case the legendary Tyll Ulenspiegel, to span the tumultuous Thirty Years’ War that wracked central Europe in the early sixteenth century. Charismatic Tyll connects a range of participants, lowly and kingly, as he strives with wit and grace and almost supernatural sleight of hand to survive when most don’t. Kehlmann is a consummate stylist and his eclectic scenes are convincing, but from the outset, I felt Tyll mainly suits those intrigued by the times, for the plot bogs down into treacle again and again. The bit-player characters are evocative but I found our juggling and tightrope-walking hero unfathomable and often uninteresting. Reader, check this out if the cover blurb intrigues you; Tyll was not for me.

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