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Posted June 15, 2010
Force of Destiny
It's always a reward to come upon a novel with highly intelligent characters, something hard to find these days. It puts their flaws and mishaps into greater relief. And in this case their prejudice.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I never before realized to what extent things like family and profession set the die of our lives. Even the landscapes in this novel determine why people do things.
Two themes run throughout the novel, each pulling at the other. The first is the force of destiny. The second is the voice that force takes, or the people whose voices shape our lives. Maybe even the voice of God, if you believe in such a thing. Some of the characters in this story do, some don't. But unlike most novels, the belief or disbelief in God doesn't simply get named and then taken for granted. Everything here has a purpose for inclusion in the story. Everything is weighed out. Faith or disbelief gets raked through the character's lives in ways that they have to account for when facing the imminent death of a character later on. Some of it gets expressed as guilt, some as (self)righteousness. But all of what gets expressed has consequence in the world.
The same can be said of other motives: family and profession, especially. And of course money.
What I found most exhilarating is the way many of these motives get voiced unconsciously. We hear the characters say one thing about what they did or believe yet see an entirely different picture of it as they describe it. To see the delusion of a character at the same time the character sees it as a virtue or a necessity is the mark of a talented author. Even though the structure of the novel is more modern, I was made at times to think of George Elliot or Henry James. Or at least an author of that ilk in the making.
Not the smoothest of reads, for the abrupt changes in style and format (obviously intended to mark the different voices telling the story), but a rich and complicated telling even when some of the characters become shrill and desperate.
See my list 20 Great Contemporary Novels for Summer at: