I close this book thinking to myself, "why? Why did I love it so?" and not having concrete answers. It has all the elements of a book I shouldn't likeI close this book thinking to myself, "why? Why did I love it so?" and not having concrete answers. It has all the elements of a book I shouldn't like: too much sex, too much philandering, everyone rather miserable in the end, too much materialism, many essentially unlikable characters. But -- it was perfect. Ideal, really, in the way that Ford Madox Ford's A Good Soldier has long been my ideal English novel. I pick it up again, and read it, and think to myself, "why?" Who knows. It is.
It's so, so much like The Good Soldier, in its not-just-circular-but-spiraling design, in its central narrator -- flawed, the instrument of so much that's wrong and has destroyed, through infidelity, a group of friends and family -- in its way that the author has of picking through the wreckage of a group of people and looking for the good in them. Of finding not much. And then, of finding good in everyone.
I loved Gina. Loved Evie. Loved Conor. Loved the mothers, loved the children, loved Fiachra. They all held their flaws so close to their heart, they wrapped up the statement "I love you" with so much desire and hope and stubbornness that it could, of course, never be let go. Even when it was not true. Was it ever true? This is what we keep asking and kept saying the answer, "no," to ourselves, murmuring it to the narrator as she says it. "No you don't," we want to say. "You don't love him at all."
Of course, I didn't love Sean. I -- we -- we're not supposed to, are we? Sean is the everyman. The worst of each ordinary married or not-married-anymore man laid out in the unforgiving white light of the snow. Cold, quick to blame others, not loved enough as a child. Loves but does not give attention. Needs to be in control, and once he gets control, then what? Does he know what to do with it? Tell all involved he deserves the control, bash heads, blame others for the dents and blood.
This is not a review so much as a journal, a response, an echo of my own. The book deserves more, or deserves this just.
Here is what I want to say about this book: that Enright has that sight, that ability to describe with the smallest detail, the sound of snot being sucked back into a nostril or the bad spelling in a text exchange or the rewriting of our own stories -- how fair we are, when we back up and retell it, getting it right, trying for unbias -- the way people are. To make everyone real. To make everyone shockingly real, to make everyone you. To see your own self in her light, and somehow, not mind very much about your flaws but to love them....more