7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Falls (Paperback)Joyce Carol Oates's legions of fans will love this. It's a saga with all Oates's characteristically strong writing and huge ambitions. The scope is, as ever, huge - the story follows a woman, Ariah, from her doomed first wedding, right through the family she subsequently goes on to have. But this is not just a family epic - there are also themes of morality and capitalism and the fight of one individual - Ariah's second husband, the gorgeous, altruistic lawyer - to attain justice for the victims of a man-made disaster.
As a shocking insight into the immorality of big business and the local government corruption and collusion that big bucks are able to buy, this novel works. The blind eye turned by the authorities to the sickening effects of dumping of toxic waste are vividly evoked, and the campaigning young lawyer who fights for justice is everything a hero should be - not only handsome but also morally decent, honest and bravely outspoken.
My problem with the book was with Ariah. Despite her dire circumstances at the beginning of the book - bereaved on her first day of wedded life by a closet gay new husband - I never warmed to her, partly because I didn't feel that she had any likeable attributes. In fact, for me, she remained two dimensional, inadequately described, and unreal. My disbelief that the dashing, intelligent, wealthy lawyer would fall for her was difficult to suspend - sure, men like mystery, but she had no redeeming features apart from her tragic mystique, seeming unattractive, closed and cold, and I was sceptical throughout that she could incite such passion.
But then perhaps Ariah is meant to be closed and mysterious, cool and unfathomable. Oates has said in interviews that Ariah is her favourite among her fictional characters, and there is something of Ariah's aloofness and quiet dignity about the private but incredibly prolific Oates.
For my tastes, Oates's writing can become a little grating, her prose always carrying her signature brittle style. Humour is thin on the ground and sometimes the prose can feel heavy, self important and ponderous. But the story is gripping and Oates's fans will remain engrossed.