This is not a life-affirming book. It doesn't contain witty asides. It's unsatisfying in a way; if you like a nice, neat package that teaches you a Lesson About Life, well- this book is not for you.
I'm not saying this to say you're not deep enough for it or any such James Joyce-loving nonsense, no, but rather, I'm warning you. You should know what you're in for.
The cover drew me in. Stark, white, interesting looking graphic- a woman on a loom? Hmm. I was desperately seeking reading material on a recent trip to Philly and picked it up on a whim. I read the first chapter right there in the bookstore, in a cushy chair by the window (if you don't have the kind of bookstore that has cushy chairs in which people sit for hours and waist high stacks of books, you probably aren't my favorite), and it knocked me right over. Wham. Kind of like when I read this book for the first time.
It's less a cohesive novel and more a series of vignettes, some pointed and some seemingly pointless- stories in the lives of people in a dying empire, and about the sad pointlessness of the minutae to which individual lives are devoted. It's the picture of those lives and the purpose which connects them. It's not the meaning of life. It will leave a strange open space in your chest when you finish reading.
Read it anyway. You won't be sorry.