Great to see your comments on this one as I have had it marked for attention — I too am a David Park fan.
What struck me most in your review is the observation that Park’s meticulous style (and I think it was present in his earlier novels as well) creates a somewhat unusual circumstance for the reader — not only are there no surprises, there is an air of inevitability to the whole enterprise. Given the cast of characters and premise in this book, I would say that offers promise to me — although I can understand why other readers would regard it as a negative.
Yes, Kevin. Reading the book, I did wonder how I would respond to his others now. Perhaps it’s fortunate then that I rarely have time to go back and reread older books. Saying that, I have often had the feeling that most of my readings of books are partial and preparatory, just planning for a grand and definitive re-reading which I know will never take place.
Just a bit, Kevin, though probably not as much as it seems from the face of our blogs. It’s true that I tend to review older stuff, or foreign language stuff, these days, but I still have an interest in contemporary English language fiction, so yours is a resource I continue to turn to to slake my thirst for that. Take Lanchester’s Capital, for example, which I read about 100 pages of before deciding that it wasn’t, for me, worth continuing. I appreciate the opportunity to check your thoughts (and I think your view is pretty much how I would have ended up had I finished it).
I suppose that although I start a lot of contemporary stuff which gets sent to me, I’m more likely to give up on it than with something which has stood the test of the decades – or of catching the interest of editors in two languages. Plus with the limited time I have for reading now (I know I bang on about it, but it’s true!), I have to be ruthless with choosing stuff I think I’m most likely to get something out of.
And of course we both have a strong interest in the likes of William Maxwell and Patricia Highsmith, to cite two recent entries from your blog. (For the record, I rate Ripley’s Game perhaps as the most enjoyable of all five Ripley novels.) I have just finished a collection of stories by New Yorker staffer Maeve Brennan, mostly published from the 1950s to 1970s, and very good they are too. Maxwell provides an introduction (the collection was released before his death but after hers). I hope to write about them soon; I think you’d like them if you haven’t read Brennan before.
I liked the meticulous style and found it left room for suspense. Although possible outcomes were limited, I didn’t feel any of them to be inevitable. I did most enjoy the novel when it swapped fairly quickly between its three main characters – that was a tension builder too. I was interested that Park didn’t really change his overall authorial voice when in the viewpoints of his main characters – this is no ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy. It’s his ‘old fashioned’ qualities as an author that I like (if that’s the right word, and certainly no disrespect to ‘Small Island’ either). But this similarity in voice coupled with sometimes being in one point of view for a long time could feel airless. Park has retired from teaching and has more writing time – I wondered if the freedom of extra hours have temporarily knocked his sense of pace a little off kilter.
I re-read the first two stories in ‘The Big Snow’ recently and enjoyed them as much as the first time, and would be happy to try re-reading any Park novel – and I’m not a big re-reader. To me he’s a sufficiently individual and gratifying writer to withstand revisiting, no-one else I’ve come across covers his territory of families and anxieties about relationships in a similar way.
Thanks, Happy Reader. I agree that ‘airless’ is a good way of putting it. Overall my view, which I hope came across in the review (though that’s not essential, provided the review gives enough information for people to decide if they themselves are likely to enjoy it), is that it was worth reading but I wouldn’t press it on people, unlike The Truth Commissioner. Indeed, if this had been my first Park, I probably wouldn’t have sought out more of his work.