Kate_ev's Reviews > Finn

Finn by Jon Clinch
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Jan 24, 12


Having not read “Huckleberry Finn” I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to understand this book. As it happens I thought it worked perfectly well as a standalone book, I probably didn’t get some of the references but it certainly didn’t detract from my understanding of the story.
What struck me most about this book is the way the author is able to bring a character to life with very few words , he can use a simple smell and it easily conjures up a picture of a character in your head. I like the fact that it’s not in chronological order, if it were, it would be a little pointless but since this story is more about the characters than the narrative itself it works much better. The story could be structured this way because Finn is a raging alcoholic so it’s reflecting a drunkard’s way of remembering things i.e. all jumbled up.
The fact that Finn refers to his father merely as The Judge and The Laundress, for example, I think shows how Finn is de-humanising them – perhaps because he wants to distance himself from these people, perhaps by giving them no real name, just a title, he can distance himself from the violence he shows them (The Laundress in particular) or because he simply thinks that in his eyes they are not worthy.
I’m unsure about the character of Finn as he is a cold, uncaring, selfish man but small things lead me to question whether he does have empathy. For example when he begins his friendship with The Laundress – is he merely being sadistic and bathing in his own glory of the destruction he has caused her or is he in some warped way trying to make amends? Also the fact that he tells Huck that Mary is not his mother to free him of the troubles of the past – he doesn’t show his son fatherly love but he wants him to be free and knows that he can never give him what he really needs.
The fact is that Finn hates himself – maybe it’s because he was the son that was ignored in favour of his sickly brother, maybe it’s because he loves a woman that he feels he shouldn’t due to her colour. I believe he does love Mary, in his own weird way – when she leaves him he doesn’t go in search of anyone else and whether it’s the basic security he misses when she’s not around, he doesn’t miss a woman, he misses her.
I did find the story quite suffocating, the monotony of Finn’s daily routine – fishing, trading, drinking himself into oblivion and the violence that follows. I think he gets himself into such a state because he wants someone to look after him and he has given up on trying to make his father proud so now the only attention he can get is by screwing up which results in them being face to face in the courtroom.
A very good read, an insight into slavery, shame and brutality all seen through the eyes of one family.
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