Sunday, August 9, 2009

Send Me Back to Bed

Mmm. Well. I had some problems with the book. I feel it would be twice the book were it half the length. Maybe this is because I've been feeling my mortality this week (I've had the 'flu), but to me it was like War and Peace with only one battle scene. Just not enough plot to carry the weight of pages. And since the major plot point was given in the first page, there was no narrative tension.

And I have so much stuff left to read in what's left of my life!

I do find, when I flick back through the book (which admittedly I read through a haze of Amoxycillin, Ventolin, Flixotide, Paracetemol and Premonition of Death) that I find something to enjoy on every page.

But I'm past the age when to travel happily is better than to arrive!

Another problem I had was with the basic premise. It seems to me that classicists of all people, or anyone with a passing knowledge of the Bacchae of Euripides, or indeed anyone who's read the novels of Mary Renault, might suspect that the divine frenzy could turn to custard.

Also, these kids are supposed to be Catholic. Where's the guilt? Where is the acknowledgement that the Church has a mission to harness and control SPECIFICALLY the forces and passions which run amok here?

Also, the character of Julian. What is he there for? When I read he was running an Exclusive Class for Top Brains, I thought we'd stumbled into a Svengali/Trilby set-up. Or Pygmalion with Richard a Galatea being brought to life. Or a sinister recruiter for the Illuminati or Freemasons. But no - he's there simply to receive Bunny's post-mortem accusation and then, apparently, do nothing about it. Not even swear the kids to being better people for the rest of their born days.

And I was a bit embarrassed by the Epilogue, which told me lovingly what happened to all the minor characters, because I hadn't realized I was supposed to care about them. I feel like you do when you arrive at a party and you find it's someone's birthday and you haven't brought a present.

One part that I thought could happily be cut was the take-down of the Corcorans. It may well be that death is a time when the most painfully conventional and banal instincts take over. However, I simply don't believe that any parents behave like this in the loss of a child.

I was gripped by Richard's winter sufferings in an unlined room. I stayed one winter in an unlined room in a Dunedin student hovel, and contracted the chest troubles which plague me to this day, and which no doubt account for my jaundiced view of "Secret History."

So, as I say, lots of good things, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

Now, challenge me or shoot me down or tell me that I'm obviously still sick and send me back to bed...

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