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Authoritative and powerful, but not an easy read
on 17 December 2009
Five novels, over 900 pages - this certainly isn't a relaxing read. But if you're interested in where literature is today, this is probably an essential one. I'm not going to discuss the plot, partly because that's already been done here and partly because this is not a work that's about plot. Never an easy read, it demands the reader work at the text in the same way that a T.S.Eliot, a Dante or a Baudelaire does.
Replete with images, mythic resonances, historical and cultural allusions, this is ultimately a rich text that builds up layer by layer, and meaning resides as much in what isn't said, in the interstices of the story, as it does in what is said. This is the kind of book that will appear on university syllabuses for courses on modern and post-modern literature; and I would guess it won't be long before theses will start to be written on it.
I'm not sure that I would exactly say that I enjoyed reading it, but even while reading it I felt that it was important. So don't expect a gripping, just-one-more-chapter read, or a linear plotline - this is far more leisurely and diffuse. But its power builds up surely as you become immersed. An undoubtedly authoritative achievement, but unlikely to be a book that people have an emotional love for.