Cold Spring Harbor (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 7 Feb 2008
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"Yates writes with a sympathy so clear-hearted that it often feels like nostalgia for his own youth, and yet he is also thoroughly uncompromising in revealing their capacity for self-delusion, their bewilderment in the face of failure" (New York Times)
"So consistently well-written, just, unsentimental and sympathetic" (Washington Post)
"Read and weep" (Kate Atkinson)
"Yates's prose is as elegant and minimalist as ever... He simply tells the story - in easily comprehensible but perfectly pitched language" (Leyla Sanai www.rocksbackpagesblogs.com)
A brilliantly written exploration of youth and self-delusion by the author of Revolutionary RoadSee all Product description
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The story centres around two families, the Shepards and the Drakes, who meet up by chance when the Shepards car breaks down. What begins as a joyous union soon beings to turn sour, with sadness meeting each character perpetually. There is one mans feelings of being trapped by marriage and his child, a mentally unstable woman and her unrequited love, a teenage boys feelings of inadequacy – each of them dreams of escape and a better life, only to wake to reality every time.
The characters, as in all of Yates stories, are brought to life by the faultless dialogue, each scene brought to life by Yates sparse yet descriptive sentences. There are no excess words, no overindulgence, it’s kept sharp and clear and with the last few pages beautifully understated and totally breathtaking. Though it may not be as critically acclaimed a novel as his debut Revolutionary Road, this book should still not be ignored.
There is no happy ending to this story but that’s okay – life isn’t all about happy endings and anyway, a happy ending wouldn’t have fit here. Richard Yates was a man who suffered through two divorces (with his wives winning custody of the children on both occasions), TB, alcoholism and depression, finally ending with his premature death caused by smoking induced emphysema. For him, sadly, there was no happy ending either.
I am not going to give away the plot, but more praise the style of writing. Yates was able to use sparse prose to quickly invite the reader into the lives of numerous individuals. He has an uncanny and frankly unique ability to involve the reader in the characters lives, so much so that he makes the ordinary gripping and you feel that you know the main characters. Would thoroughly recommend it his novel.
For some, the subject matter may feel a bit gloomy and the storylines rather pessimistic. It's true the characters have by and large taken a bit of a bruising one way or the other, their horizons pretty limited. The women, particularly, do seem to suffer. But it's right in this mire of hardship and delusion that Yates manages to capture the poignancy and reality of the human struggle. He conjures beautiful, timeless moments that sparkle with truth. But it's no trick - more like a surgeon at the operating table performing something wonderfully life-giving, yet difficult to watch.
It is a deceptively simple story of two families struggling to get along, to do 'the right thing,' to be accepted and loved. But the veneer of polite society is shot through by deeper needs and fears.
As the narration switches between characters all appear to have legitimacy and reason, as well as some flaw which grows in their minds like a tumour, dominating their lives. The characters do not grow to overcome their limitations; they are not supported to confront the issues, which instead are covered up, ran away from or disowned.
In short, a nightmare! No matter how you wish things will turn out fine in the end, you know it ain't going to happen!
Nonetheless, the book is an extremely good read, if not exactly enjoyable! It is convincing in ways few horror stories are.
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