This book is one that seems to have polarized opinions about it. People either love it and can’t say enough good things or loathe it and are happy to expound at length on the reasons they hate it. I respect both camps but fall into the “loved it” category.
I can start by saying I hadn’t read reviews or even knew that the book had won several literary awards in the United States and France. So I went into the book with a blank slate and no expectations. Quite honestly, I don’t even remember where or when I picked up the book and for weeks it has been sitting on a shelf under the coffee table with my thinking that it was a different authors book altogether.
It is a long book but for once, the length is justified. The author has written a very complex story with lots of misunderstandings between characters and misinformation presented to the reader that has to be unraveled and would not have done justice to the story if the author had tried to do so in just a few pages.
One thing that immediately stands out is that there is a love affair between a 34 year old man and a 15 year old girl. My first thought was “Are we somehow revisiting Humbert Humbert and Lolita by Nabokov here?” The answer is kind of yes and kind of no. But that is a similarity that readers can decide for themselves.
The story is complex. One arm is about a writer, trying to meet the high expectations set by his first novel, while he struggles to write his second. Another arm is the writers’ relationship with his mentor who followed a similar path. Another is a love story between a man and a young girl. Another is small town life in New Hampshire in the mid 70’s and the relationships between townspeople and outsiders. Another is a story about a deformed former vet and his mentor, a wealthy magnate.
What makes the book so fascinating is that all of these stories are inter-connected. There are tons of themes that run throughout the book and I could write and write and still not cover everything. Nor would I want to do that because there is no way I could do that without exposing the end of the story.
It is a book that you have to keep reading because with every page, a new piece of information is exposed that makes the ending difficult to see. In fact, you really have to read to the end to get the entire picture and I loved that.
I’m not sure what kind of writing that people who were disappointed in the book were looking for from “a literary masterpiece.” Hemingway wrote in very short, sharp sentences. He used his journalistic background in his literary art. For me, the wording or authorship is not the standout thing about the book. It is the complexity of the story and the author’s ability to successfully link all the threads together. It would have been very easy for the plot to come easily unraveled. To keep this tightly woven was a real accomplishment.
This is a long book- over 600 pages. Even so, I was eager every night to get back to the story and 100 pages flew by very quickly so don’t let the size of the book intimidate you. It held my interest and I have been recommending it to others. To me, this is a strong 4 star book but based on the diversity of opinions about it, it is also a love it or hate it book. I hope you love it. I did.