Most helpful critical review
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Faction and Truth
on 4 May 2004
I picked up this book by chance, not having heard anything about it previously. It is a well written and absorbing book which I would recommend to people to see what their thoughts were, and it does provoke a good deal of thought.
A large part of that for me is the basic elements taken from a real and brutal murder and the authorial extrapolation that takes place from the unknown truths of the people involved.
I don't think that the author has been particularly unfair; to read Edie's thoughts and emotions is to feel trapped yourself. Here is a woman who has not had an extensive education, brought up to believe in certain things like having a "respectable" married home life (respectable to other people) and has to live within a societal framework that is on the edge of transition, and one that has concrete beliefs that no longer rule absolute in the 21st Century. She married someone, they were extremely ill-suited in temperament and she met someone else who she felt she truly could be herself and be appreciated by.
With that said, I don't believe that Edie comes across as a completely sympathetic character. She displays shallowness, self-involvement and a high degree of a fantasy prone personality. She takes comfort in things that a lot of people might find particularly frivolous. Edie does suffer hardships and pain, but you only find some of this out in the novel by implication. Neither do her husband Percy or her lover Fred come out of the novel with clear cut victim/perpetrator labels.
Percy appears a rather staid, physically unattractive character and when he has a drink too many his bullying and violent tendancies emerge. As the novel progresses Edie gives a view of a rather pathetic man who is both jealous and cowardly. And yet he does not appear without a certain pathos, he is someone who under the right circumstances could have been a better husband, a kinder man. Fred is the "romantic" hero, attractive, more intutitive/sensitive, wordly, sexy and sophisticated but retaining a childlike (even childish) outlook. Which all sounds terribly desirable until you look at his actions, which are by turns just as selfish, possessive and insensitive as Percy's.
What you have within the author's imagination are three flawed human beings whose chance interactions led to a devastating end.
I feel there are certain flaws to the book, when you are dealing with the unknown there always will be. Edie's imagination and use of language as narrator are highly developed, her emotional outpourings are very coherent and have a 'writerly' quality to them. There's nothing to definitively say she wasn't a very imaginative person with natural talent but it does seem to me to be heightened to a degree where a modern reader could be more open to her dilemma.
It also left me with some uncomfortable thoughts which I had on reading 'Alias Grace' by Margaret Atwood. These were real people, whose innocence of the crime or not, affected themselves, their families and friends in a way that most of us, hopefully, will never know. In some ways I would prefer to read a novel which was a product entirely of the author's mind, I can't help but feel that we are pulling these people back into the light when they would wish themselves to be in the shade of the past.