Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
a lyrical, reflective and insightful novel
on 30 January 2014
I was predisposed to enjoy this novel because its theme is one of my favourites, the narrator's obsession with all the members of a charismatic and talented family - what you might call the Brideshead fixation. Messud adds some really intriguing and clever ideas to the genre, dealing with creativity, ambition, duty, regret, and the complexity of sexual attraction. She explores these in a beautiful prose style and with many resonant touches. It is a very mature book, she takes time to explore things, occasionally too much so, but overall it's one of the most rewarding reading experiences I've had for years. The Cambridge, Mass. setting is nicely woven into the book.
I am still pondering over the ending, which comes as a shock and turns the rest of the book on its head. At first I took against it, because it just didn't seem to be in character. I still find it saddening and disturbing, but at the same time I can see how it flows from some of the book's development. What I don't like, though, is the message that the author seems to be sending in the book's opening and closing sentences that anger can be positive and liberating. Messud would perhaps say that this isn't her message but the narrator's, and if that is the case it could be taken to show that at the end of a painful experience Nora remains deluded.
It's not often that one reads a novel that sets the mind going in so many different directions, in addition to being such an enjoyable book to read. Messud deserves all the praise she gets for her achievement.