Bit of a thin month on the read (but not reviewed) front thanks to the sheer door-stopping size of one of the two books I finished. Philipp Meyer’s The Son was raved about last year – fulsome tweets were legion and it was a Waterstones Book Club choice, although presumably only for thoroughly committed readers or those with time on their hands as it’s well over 500 pages of tiny print. It’s the story of Texas told through the voices of three people: Eli McCullough, kidnapped by the Comanche with whom he lived, and grew to love, for several years; his son Peter caught up in his father’s battle with Mexican settlers, and his great-grand-daughter Jeanne who presides over the multi-million dollar oil business the family ranch has become. It’s undoubtedly good, although not for the faint-hearted – there are some stomach-churningly violent scenes – but far too long. I found myself desperate for it to end but unable to give it up.
Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s feminist classic La Femme de Gilles was a useful antidote in terms of size although not emotional impact. First published in the 1930s it’s told from the point of view of Elisa who realizes that her beloved husband Gilles has become besotted with her sister. Elisa is quietly distraught and all the more so when she gathers that she’s the source of gossip. She decides to take the extraordinary step of becoming the love-struck Gilles’ confidante. It’s a beautifully expressed novel, translated by Faith Evans whose illuminating afterword demonstrates her passion for the book. Well done Daunt Books for reissuing it. Seems to be a bit of a trend in bookselling. My own local, Mr B’s, has set up an imprint under which they’ve reissued one of my favourite books: Tim Gautreux’s The Next Step in the Dance.
And the 900-page plus City on Fire? Reader, I tried but it was all too much, and Squeaker wasn’t impressed either. Try holding that kind of weight aloft as your cat shifts uneasily in what she considers her rightful position on your lap. I wanted to like it with its appealing 1970s New York backdrop but for someone whose preference is clean, spare prose it was never going to work – nothing, it seemed, is left unsaid.