Kristopher Jansma’s debut novel The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is the first great book of 2013 (and will probably be my favorite for the rest of the year). Tackling themes of identity and truth, Leopards follows a writers’ life as he attempts to pen a great novel. Everything he writes is based on truth, but slanted truth; and the more he continues to slant the truth the more his own personal truth becomes slanted.
Without ruining too much of the novel (since seeing it all unfold is a treat in itself), the story focuses on this unnamed writer, his best friend and rival writer Julian McMann, and the beautiful actress Evelyn Lynn Madison Demont. Their eccentricities bring them together but could potentially lead to personal destruction.
Jansma uses these characters for his own exploration in storytelling. Jansma’s story resembles those of John Irving—just substitute leopards for bears and Luxembourg for Vienna—but with light, crisp prose in lieu of Irving’s denser style. His writing can be equally devastating and humorous—usually on the same page. And the book’s matroshka doll structure is reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas by way of Brideshead Revisited. There are so many layers and recurring motifs used throughout that you’ll want to reread the novel immediately to see what you missed (in similar fashion to Michael Ondaatje’s fascinating novel Divisadero).
Leopards can best be described as Jansma inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) writes in his novel: “It is the rare of sort of book that resembles nothing else and yet somehow seems intensely familiar. From the first line you feel your own heart begin to beat differently. Once it’s over you want to begin it again.” This perfectly sums up how reading this novel feels, and I definitely encourage you to devour this novel as soon as possible.
(Other) Similar Reads:
- Sink Your “Teeth” Into McEwan’s “Sweet” New Novel
- Inter-Dimensions of Sci-Fi and Folklore Collide in Rushdie’s Beautiful Debut Novel “Grimus”