Mike Russo's Reviews > Foreign Bodies

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
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's review
Mar 08, 11

Read from February 23 to 27, 2011

Ozick seems like one of those writers you hear described as a novelist's novelist, an author whose work is best appreciated by others who've practiced the craft. Given that I've sort of written a novel -- qualifying only by the barest technicality -- I guess it's unsurprising that I just liked this one OK. Having never read the Ambassadors, upon which this book riffs (I like James' prose for a ghost story, but for straight fiction it leaves me a bit cold), I could be missing great iceberg-invisible masses of depth, but I found the plot a bit slight yet scattershot, with the characters for the most part either flat or ciphers.

Bea, the central character, was a notable exception; she's appealingly perceptive, lands just on the safe side of self-absorption, and her slow awakening to her powers of manipulation is surprisingly sympathetic. When the book focuses on her, it's quite good -- but when it slips to her buffoonish brother (whose frequent letters seem like little more than an excuse for Ozick to play with an entertaining epistolary voice), or her beyond-callow nephew, or her feckless ex-husband (male characters, I should note, don't come off so well), it decidedly suffers.

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02/23/2011 page 32
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