Madeline's Reviews > A Home at the End of the World

A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
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Aug 13, 11

bookshelves: 2011, library-books, novels, queer, historical-fiction, coming-of-age, depression, grief, marriage-lets-you-down, music, family, thieves-like-us
Read from August 10 to 13, 2011, read count: 1

Well - there are a couple of really good lines in this book, but they are almost invariably followed by something truly horrible and trite, expanding upon the theme and beating it into your head. So the prose is overwritten and labored (and sometimes mannered and affected), but as a reader of Victorian literature, I could probably forgive that - Hardy has committed greater sins, and I have read and enjoyed those sins as committed by by lesser writers than Hardy - but the problem with A Home at the End of the World is that it never feels authentic: particularly, the characters. They are all a collection of surfaces; Cunningham constantly explains them to us, but does little to justify his explanations, and their supposed virtues just make them cowards.* Also, although it is a novel in alternating first person chapters, none of them have unique voices - they all sound like each other, there are no psychological/verbal idiosyncrasies. You want something more nuanced and developed from a novel like this - and something more challenging, too. I think the general idea that "these people are too afraid of the world and themselves to be part of it" is a good one, if perhaps more suited to short fiction than a novel, except I'm not 100% sure that the novel actually takes this position: there's a nasty undercurrent of sanctimony.

Music is supposed to be a big part of their lives, but it never feels that way - Nick Hornby, among others, has done that better. And food is also supposed to be important. Those are two rich thematic elements, but they just lie there on the page, like gestures at depth and sensual experience. It sort of gave me second-hand embarrassment.

* Like, if you want to read that, Hemingway, Wharton, and Fitzgerald are your go-to writers, right? And I say this as someone who doesn't even like Hemingway.
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08/11/2011 page 109
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