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The Light of Common Day
     

The Light of Common Day

5.0 1
by John Herman
 
In The Weight of Love--chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 1995--John Herman dazzled readers with his stunning look into the contradictions and tragedies of modern love. Now he uses his same powers of language and observation in a spellbinding evocation of that most universal of human journeys, adolescence.

It is spring, 1962.

Overview

In The Weight of Love--chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 1995--John Herman dazzled readers with his stunning look into the contradictions and tragedies of modern love. Now he uses his same powers of language and observation in a spellbinding evocation of that most universal of human journeys, adolescence.

It is spring, 1962. Paul Werth, a junior at Highgate Academy, is smart, well-adjusted, adept at school and sports. But beneath the surface lie stresses and strains that threaten to tear him apart, the most disruptive of which is the death of his father the year before. Still coping with that loss, Paul must find his way among uncertain friends, the pressures of school, the aches of the heart, and a growing scandal over drugs. His loyalties may be dangerously misplaced, and the girl he thinks he loves has secrets that poison their relationship. Without the guidance of his father, with whom he shared a close bond, Paul struggles to bring his perceptions into line with the actualities of common day.

Faithfully capturing the feel of adolescence-its quicksilver changes of mood, its sense of the imminent amidst the ordinary--The Light of Common Day is a hypnotic, moving novel sure to enlarge John Herman's already growing reputation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Former publisher John Herman has followed up his admired The Weight of Love with the kind of book that is more often a first novel: a bittersweet coming-of-age story about a youth at a tony prep school coming to terms with life, love and the death of his father. Paul Werth is a bright boy, good at baseball and well up in his studies, who is inclined to take people too much at face value: a girl who comes on to him out of her own deep dissatisfactions; a flashily sophisticated friend who tends to call people Bambino (the year is 1962); a truly kindred spirit who likes to pretend she is a femme fatale. Overriding all these concernsas well as a quaint fuss over drugs at the schoolis Paul's anguish over the sudden death of his much-loved father. He died a disappointed man, and his dying attempts to warn Paul about life's perils have made the boy profoundly uneasy. Much of this can hardly fail to be evocative, and sometimes, as in Paul's memories of a childhood girlfriend who succumbed to leukemia, it is truly touching. There's no denying the fact, however, that for all Herman's quiet skill as a writer, most of it is also crushingly familiar material. Perhaps this was his first novel, after all. (May)
Library Journal
Paul Werth is a junior at a private high school in 1962, and the world lies before him. But he is struggling with the pressures of adolescence, unsure of his friends, his girlfriend, and his feelings about the death of his father. These emotions are intensified when the school launches an investigation to determine which students are pushing drugs; given his status as a baseball-team starter, Paul is forced into making some unpleasant decisions. Recalling advice from his dying father, Paul soon realizes that people aren't necessarily who they seem to be. Herman (The Weight of Love, Doubleday, 1995) takes us back to coming-of-age struggles 30 years ago when crack and AIDS were unknown and the Beatles hadn't yet invaded America. Accurately capturing the confusion of youth, he leads us through the maze in smooth, readable style to Paul's recognition of self. Ultimately, however, the book feels more like a reminiscence than a a true coming-of-age story, and it won't mean much to those who didn't live through the Sixties. An optional purchase.Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
Second-novelist Herman (The Weight of Love, 1995) chooses a genre—adolescent coming of age—that as book editor he must have seen in an excess beyond measure. To his credit, though, albeit amid many an echo of Wolfe, Fitzgerald, Knowles, and Salinger, he turns his version of the far too oft-told tale into a readable pleasure.

Paul Werth goes to Highgate, a prep school just north of Manhattan, where many of his classmates live, though he himself is from "the suburb" where the school is located. Paul is a sophomore, in the spring of 1962, a time, Herman announces, "when boys still wore their hair short and the United States was not at war in Vietnam and America had not yet heard of drugs or rebellion or failure. . . . `' Maybe so, but drugs are still one of the twin mainsprings making Herman's plot go round: Somebody is selling inside the school, and the headmaster is going to find out who. How could thoughtful, introspective Paul, a subtle thinker and omnivorous reader, conceivably be involved? Well, the second mainspring is that Paul's father died just 14 months before the book's opening—an event that plunged Paul not only into girl trouble, homework trouble, and a hitting slump in baseball, but into wondering whether life might be "literally without meaning." He really could be drug-involved, in other words, not to mention that he's also friends with the devilishly cavalier Philip Richards, a character suspicious indeed. During the raveling of Paul's classically expectable fate, Herman is at his Fitzgeraldian best in describing parties, people's looks, the smells and feels of places—and the past. Very possibly best and truest in the book—and saddest—is Paul's passionate, long-ago, grade-school love affair with little Cassandra, who only too soon. . . . But let that stay unsaid.

Herman has grown since his first book. Even working against the pitfalls of a wildly overused genre, he's able to bring in light, color, feeling, and life.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385483186
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/14/1997
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.97(w) x 8.57(h) x 1.06(d)

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The Light of Common Day 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Catcher In the Rye meets Rebel Without A Cause, I discovered this book by chance and I couldn't put it down afterwards...a very good read.