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Book Review: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The flamethrowers : a novel

This book got pretty famous. The NYT and Booklist and all the other respected reviewers were super into it. A simple google search will lead you to these reviews, and there are many!


My life wasn’t changed. Without doubt, it is sometimes absolutely is beautifully written; there are sentences that are like “omg wtf did the author just do!” It also defies certain conventions, both structural and  plot-wise: time in this book is not always linear, and it’s neat that the protagonist is a 1970’s woman who makes art and races motorcycles. Sweet.

But as a “Millennial” reader, I felt in over my head. Were the art world characters in the book based on people in real life? Does our protagonist know more than she lets on? There’s a substantial amount of banter between supporting characters– does any of it matter? Are all of the characters mere shells that are intended to convey a message/critique of a time/scene rather than a story? Also, pace. and sense of place were not as expected, and  was this intentional?

I cracked open the book hoping to become BFF’s with the main character, Reno. But she didn’t have enough dimension. I took over 2 weeks to read this book, as the magnetic appeal was not there for me.

Still, a vast amount of information was provided within this 400-page book. The people (mostly 40+) in my book club really loved it. It has awesome sentence structure and an unusual style. Give it a try!


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