Coming up with a summary of any Tom Robbins novel is a difficult task, and this novel, Villa Incognito, his eighth, is particularly hard to summarize. It starts with a mythological creature, a Tanuki. The novel’s plot begins with two women, sisters, a circus and four MIAs from the Vietnam War.
What ensues is a convoluted adventure of which I’m not positive Robbins even knows the entire story. The novel makes for a fun, albeit vague, read.
Fans of Robbins should definitely read this novel, as I’m sure they already have. If you haven’t read Robbins yet, don’t start with this one. I think it takes a fan of his work, someone who is used to his style of writing and storytelling, to appreciate this novel. If you haven’t read any of his other works, I’m afraid you’d be turned away from him altogether by this strange novel.
As always, it’s Robbins style of writing that I adore. He has a unique way of describing characters, setting, events, etc. He also infuses his novels with bits of philosophy, religion and art that I’ve always found interesting and entertaining. Usually, his stories and characters are enchanting and alluring to me, but this novel departed a bit from that.
For me, I didn’t feel a deep connection with this novel. It came across as vague and distant; I couldn’t quite grasp the plot or its characters. I was left feeling a bit confused and turned off to the writing, which is exactly the opposite of how I usually feel when ending a Robbins novel.
After finishing Villa Incognito, I wanted to read one of my favorites of Robbins (like Still Life with Woodpecker) to reassure myself that Robbins remains among my top three favorite authors.
Sadly, this novel made me feel confused. I wasn’t sure entirely what had happened in the novel. I wasn’t sure of the point. To me, it felt like Robbins let his characters take over, not really caring if the plot made sense or felt finished to the reader.
Tom Robbins is a well-known contemporary American writer. His style is unique and outlandish. A student of art and philosophy, those subjects are always apparent within his writing. He combines two important trios – sex, drugs, and rock & roll with art, religion, and philosophy.
For fans of Robbins, this novel completes his library, so it should be read. For others, like I’ve already stated, read his other works first. This is not exemplary of his writing.
Though I didn’t particularly care for this novel, it’s not a bad book. I think there’s something to be learned from it, as with all Robbins novels, but for me, the lesson or theme is not as apparent as in his other writings. Villa Incognito is worth the read; I’m just not sure I’ll be re-reading it any time soon.