You’ll think this is pretty good if you come to it without having first read Middlesex or The Virgin Suicides. You’ll think he’s a witty, clever incisive writer who has the ability to write what is effortless to read and with characters that you care about and want to understand. But if you’ve read those two, or even only one of them, you’ll think that he’s lost some of his shine in the near decade that elapsed between those and this.
We have a woman, Madeleine, and two men, both of whom are as flaky as your early twenties typically reveals you to be (without your knowledge at the time of course). Madeleine falls for one and then the other and then, through happenstance, ends up marrying one. This turns out to be much the latter part of for better or for worse at which point the other reappears. It’s kind of like a modern day Austen but less predictable. Actually, come to think of it, the sunrise is less predictable than Austen so that may not be a fair comparison.
Anyhow, along the way, we learn about what makes each of these three tick and why it is that they suffer from the various issues that beset someone just graduating from university. Eugenides explores themes of sanity, love, the value of a life’s work, academia, spirituality and friendship. I didn’t really appreciate this flitting around. It was like the novel really settled for me.
What I did appreciate though was exploring the Calcutta of the mid-1990s. I spent a incredibly formative 6 months living in Calcutta in 1990. It was a delight to revisit Sudder Street, Park Street Cemetery and Mother Theresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying in Khalighat again. As Mitchell explored them and was influenced by them, I remembered how they too influenced me.
But most people aren’t going to relate to living in Calcutta. This is an okay novel from someone who can produce far better writing.
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style
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