- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Methuen Publishing Ltd (27 July 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0413775194
- ISBN-13: 978-0413775191
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,325,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Special Providence Paperback – 27 Jul 2006
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"Soft-spoken in his prose and terrifyingly accurate in his dialogue, Yates renders his characters with such authenticity that you hardly realize what he's done." --The Boston Globe"One of America's best-kept secrets. . . . Keenly insightful, brutally honest...delivering a swift kick to the heart." --The Denver Post"Yates writes powerfully and enters completely and effortlessly into the lives of his characters." --The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.
A moving, ironic and often heart breaking exploration of post-war America by the author of Revolutionary Road --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
From here, we follow Robert back to the infantry and his propulsion into the action of the second world war in Europe. Intermittently, we return to his mother, Alice, and find out more about her and what events in her life have shaped her.
Yates's spare, deadpan prose suits the pursuit of war. The cruel fact that Robert's coltish enthusiasm is not enough to win him popularity and heroism in battle is portrayed unflinchingly. The horrors of war have been covered vividly by other authors but Yates's day-by-day account of what war entails drives the unglamorous, gritty reality home. For once, Yates's trademark blackness does not seem out of place or excessive. On the contrary, the skillful sketches of Prentice's colleagues bring an element of humanity to a sordid and inhumane topic: as well as the expected bullies and power-freaks there are complex characters such as John Quint, the articulate intellectual who Prentice idolises, and Lieutenant Covely, whose down-to-earth comraderie and desire to be liked barely mask a fear others of his rank rarely display publically.
Alice Prentice's story is complex and intriguing. At the beginning, when her son is practically gritting his teeth to stop himself from snapping at her, she seems almost comical; a theatrical woman with delusions of grandeur able to persuade herself that her big break as a sculptor is just around the next corner. Yates's description of her embarrassingly histrionic outbursts of breast-clutching, effusive crying and falling to the ground kicking her feet is gleefully, wickedly entertaining. But as Yates reveals more of her past, her selfishness is tinged with a poignancy - she, like many of Yates's female characters, has been unlucky in love, betrayed, disappointed. By the time the reader reaches the end and reads of Alice being driven by desperate loneliness into a superficial friendship with a woman she really doesn't like, we feel a mixture of sympathy, pity and a tiny bit of contempt for this woman whose fantasies of stardom and allusions to a life she can't afford have led her to take so selfishly from those around her. The scene where Alice and the friend, Natalie, eat in the same restaurant that Alice visited with Robert at the start of the book is a masterpiece in understated brilliance, the disingenuousness and utter selfishness of both women being conveyed brilliantly in the matter-of-fact use of terms which would be hilariously out of place in any genuine friendship: 'She hoped this would lead to other anecdotes... because she knew she would soon be able to stop being able to listen. That often happened; Natalie would go on talking, elaborating on the injustice of her position, and after a while Alice would lose all sense of what she was saying. She would sit watching Natalie's talking mouth and shrugging shoulders and gesturing hands with her mind far away on other things, waiting only for the silence that would mean it was her turn to talk'.
And: 'But Alice could tell that Natalie wanted her own turn to talk now and she gracefully yielded the floor'...
And: 'Natalie's face, withdrawing now in the harsh light... was suddenly a mask of insincerity. How ugly and old she is, Alice thought...She wanted to say, Natalie, I don't realy like you at all, and I never had'.
It is this dry, acutely sharp perceptiveness that Yates displays, able to capture a pathological relationship or complicated emotion in a few devastating sentences, that makes this book so potent. The lives he describes may be yawningly ordinary and grey, but the plain, uncluttered way he describes them is startlingly, deliciously colourful.
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