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Ship of Fools. A novel
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Pale Horse, Pale Rider: The Selected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (Penguin Modern Classics)
Katherine Anne Porter
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29 July 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
In 1931 a disparate group of travellers sail to Europe on a German passenger ship, amongst them Americans, German, Mexicans and many other nationalities. Each one of them hopes to be sailing towards a better and brighter future, but they are of course, quite unwittingly, sailing towards a Europe that will shortly explode into war and mayhem and only disappointment and disillusion await them. Perhaps they deserve it. The title, from the medieval allegory, about a vessel without a pilot and with only stupid people aboard, is used here by Porter to refer to the coming calamity and up to a point the allegorical metaphor works well. Certainly Porter has no love for her characters, whom she portrays with all their faults and foibles. But the problem for me is that there are just too many characters, and no main one to identify with, and too many sub-plots and no major one to carry the story along. As a result there is much duplication and repetition, many vignettes but no sustained and cohesive narrative. I didn’t care about any of this heterogeneous band of unappealing characters and was only too happy to let them sail off into their unsatisfactory future without me. My edition (with grateful thanks to Netgalley) somewhat redeemed itself by having a short biography of Porter at the end with some great photos. I enjoyed that much more than the novel itself.