Title: All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost
Author: Lan Samantha Chang
Release Date: September 27, 2010
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 4 out of 5
Roman, Bernard, and Lucy are all students in a class taught by Miranda Sturgis, an inspiring yet terrifying professor of poetry. Roman is fascinated by Miranda because of her rejection of his poetry, while Lucy is the only one who stands up for Roman’s work when Miranda slices it open in class. Bernard is Roman’s best friend, equally fascinated by Miranda, yet consumed with his own work. Each of these students will be affected by this one class forever as they try to find success and find their lives intertwined.
All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost is a book that brings a lot of questions about the teaching of the writing craft to the forefront. Is writing even something that can be taught? If it is, what is the best method to do so? As Miranda rejects her class’s poems, skewers them in front of everyone, her students are inspired to work harder and to please her. But at what point will they give up and decide that she isn’t worth the effort? Is her teaching style helping or hindering her students?
Chang’s writing is beautiful and elegant, telling the story of these four people. She writes them with such care, the reader can’t help but be interested in them. Some of the characters seem a little underdeveloped, but it is Roman, arguably the main character, who really leaps off the page. The reader can taste his bitterness, can sense his anger. He is the star of this novel as he struggles for recognition. Once he finds it, Roman realizes that it isn’t as fulfilling as he’d hoped.
This is a slip of a novel, but there is a lot to think about within its pages. There are many themes to consider, including the query of what make a person accomplished. Is it writing books and books and winning awards, but not really feeling any kind of contentment and constantly needing to prove yourself, or is it writing just one masterpiece, one thing you are truly proud of but that no one will ever see? Chang doesn’t provide an easy answer for this question, but she does leave the reader thinking about its ramifications.
All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost is an interesting novel that left me pondering long after I’d read the last page. Considering the subject matter, it’s a relatively easy read and flows incredibly well, thanks to the author’s wonderful prose. Chang is a talented writer, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.