I read this book once, and that was more than enough. I don’t buy novels randomly. I always have a rationale. I bought this one (at Huebner Oaks Borders) because the actor I had a crush on recommended it. As a novel, it’s got all its novel bases covered: layered conflicts, vivid characters, and psychological damage to a dizzying extent.
There are readers who live for the psychological damage rubbish. They thrive on suffering – the more cruel the better. Not me. I’m not one for gratuitous ugliness – at least, not so much since the punk-rock era. I agree with Nick Hornby. He wrote, in SONGBOOK I think (don’t quote me), that he didn’t believe that literature had be, essentially, full of misery and miserable bastards to be considered literature. I agree. I used to think that for literature to be literary, it had to have tragedy and horrible, soul-destroying depression coupled with access to status and great wealth but no emotional tools to enjoy it. Case in point: WAR AND PEACE, anything by Allen Ginsberg, Victor Hugo, Anais Nin, Chekov, Kafka…you know what I mean. The kind of literature which presents you with a hundred varieties of misery and fuck-all for happiness. Happiness isn’t sophisticated. It’s naive and jejeune and provincial. Well, allow me to reiterate: misery for misery’s sake is not as interesting as it used to be. So thank you Nick Hornby for shedding light on a POV that I had hidden in my heart for fear of ridicule.
That said, this is a well-constructed novel, skillfully written, with innovative characters and a daring plot, full of psychological universals, that zig-zags back and forth through time. But I won’t ever read it again because the characters are one-dimensional, i.e., rotten and/or sad and definitely exploited, and the plot — once the shock and awe has worn off — has nothing useful to offer. It almost won an award, by the way, so make of that what you will.