Independence day (French) Mass Market Paperback – 4 Jan 1999
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Mass Market Paperback
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J'AI LU Science-Fiction/Fantasy/Fantastique n° 4288 (1996) - Dean DEVLIN & Roland EMMERICH Independence Day - Le Jour de la riposte
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Over an extended Independence Day weekend, we follow Bascombe in his continued voyage of mid-life discovery and his attempts to resolve his own internal uncertainties, both in a personal and wider, social context. By placing Frank in one of the most despised of modern day capitalist milieus (real estate), Ford is able to brilliantly dissect the associated set of human shortcomings (class snobbery, racism, sexism) and the early passages of novel as Frank shows Vermont couple, the Markhams, around their potential new home are some of my favourites. Ford also continues to show his mastery of the (significant) chance encounter and those here with, variously, a rookie cop, a Negro removals man, a female chef and a long unseen relative are all brilliantly done.
Where, for me, the novel falls slightly short is in its dealings with Bascombe's family. Although the passages relating to Frank's dealings with his ex-wife and her new husband are frequently hilarious, the novel's central tragedy concerning son Paul does not have quite the emotional punch (or resolution) that I would expect it to. This is something I found on reading The Sportswriter, that Ford, whilst being an outstandingly communicator of tales of realism, does not (quite) have the emotive power of a (for instance) Cormac McCarthy or Richard Russo.
Ford's most striking - and unusual - achievement in "Independence Day" is the astonishing compassion with which he treats characters, story and theme. There are no grotesques, no stereotypes, no over-simplifications; the author takes no intellectual, emotional or linguistic shortcuts. This is a rich book, honest, entertaining, satisfying, and ultimately profoundly optimistic. Don't be put off by the length!
There is a satisfying sprinkling of encounters with characters from the first Frank Bascombe novel, The Sportswriter, but this book does work in a self-contained way too. Like in the earlier book, the descriptive language is gorgeous. (This is the third Pulitzer Prize winner I have read, and the others have this descriptive quality too.) However, I suggest the reader having to hand an electronic dictionary as numerous North American words (some somewhat archaic) will be encountered.
Like with The Sportswriter, it took a while to read myself into the slow flow of the novel, but thereafter I was hooked. In this stage of his life (the Existence Period), Frank works as an estate agent, an occupation that gives him ample opportunities to both observe the human condition and assuage his liberal leanings.
For a person who examines his life as much as Frank does, it is surprising (perhaps gratifying) that in the emotional tumble of life he cocks things up so comprehensively. That long Bank Holiday weekend, spent with his son, brings much to a head – both literally and metaphorically.
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