Top critical review
Somewhere between fact and fiction
on 27 June 2015
This is an OK read, but throughout the book I kept thinking, but is this bit true or has DeLillo made this up? The problem is that while some of the story is obviously based on facts relating to Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of JFK, a lot of the details are fiction, invented by the author to turn a news item into a story. The same with the characters: some are real and some aren't. But we don't know where the division lies, and while this might not matter to some readers, for me it reduced the enjoyment of the story.
The thing is, it's interesting if true. But the parts that aren't true lose that interest value, and because this can't work as a thriller, because we already know the outcome, it fails as an entertaining novel. Facts should be interesting, fiction should be entertaining, but mixing the two is difficult, and in my view it doesn't really work here.
I found the opening chapter, written in short, blunt sentences that soon grated on me, rather poor, but luckily it began to pick up soon after, and gradually the novel grew in stature, till it reached a peak towards the end when we get to the assassination scene, which I thought was really good. This is followed by a weaker last chapter seen from Oswald's mother's point of view. So overall, rather a mixed bag: not bad, not great.