Sunday, 19 January 2014

Familiar Review

By J. Robert Lennon

Thank fucking jesus, finally, a modern page-turner that I loved reading.  This was a ripper.  I read a book called 'The Light Of Falling Stars' by this same dude a few years ago, and though I barely remember any of it (plane crash, survivor) I remember really liking it, so decided to give his latest a crack and I'm happy that I did.  I read it in a day, because my missus, Andromeda, is a week overdue with our baby no.2 and all we can do is sit around and wait.  She's been watching Ellen, Australia's Biggest Loser and some other reality show where northern English people have sex, and I've been watching cricket and reading books.  I have so much time on my hands I've even been watching Big Bash (an aside: I am barracking for Hobart because there are two Melbourne teams, both called 'Melbourne', which is fucking spastic - couldn't one be called 'Victoria?' or 'Yarra' or some other form of differentiation?).

But the book... so this woman called Elisa, late 40's, is driving home from interstate after visiting her son's grave - he died about 10 years ago, when he was 15 - and suddenly, she's in a different car, in different clothes, with a different body (fatter) and she gets home and she has a different job, different friends and her son is alive.  Parallel universe?  That's what she thinks, and she investigates.  It's a mystery novel of sorts, but the real clue, I found, was in one line in chapter 21 - "Her thoughts have always been more interesting to her than the world itself."  Much earlier in the novel we become well acquainted with her vivid fantasies (she re-imagines petty disputes she used to have with a college room-mate, but in her re-imagining, they are violent and mixed up with current affairs) and so from my reading, one of the worlds she is/was in is real, the other a vivid fantasy.  Which is the real one?  Who cares?  It's brilliant. 

It reminds me of Sartre's comment that he finds ideas more real than things - in his excellent book 'Words' he says, "In the zoo, monkeys were less like monkeys" - as in, compared to what he thought of monkeys by reading about them and looking at them in books.  I have always been attracted to Sartre because of this.  I feel the same way.  I got to the Parthenon in Athens and it was a lesser place than the Parthenon of my mind.  I have fond memories of both Parthenons.  So this book made perfect sense to me.  Which is more real?  Neither, in the end.  A vivid fantasy is just that: vivid, and real life is not always so vivid.  I can easily live in both worlds, and this is a novel that takes that concept further.  On top of the basic premise, it's also a well-written mystery with interesting characters and reveals.  I also liked how some characters smoked. 

I give it an A-minus.


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