I’ve just finished two novels that fall into the "beautiful but not stunning" category.
- Alan Hollinghurt’s The Line of Beauty (several reviews here) is the story of a gay man growing up in 1980s London, which won the 2004 Booker Prize. The two big themes are sexuality and Tory politics, but it was the sub-theme of Henry James that captivated me. Alas, there just wasn’t quite enough of it.
- Thomas Keneally’s A River Town came out a decade ago, so I’m slow on the uptake. It’s a steady-moving tale of an Irish immigrant living in Kempsey in the 1890s. In spare, simple prose, it’s wends its way through the economic downturn and the path towards federation, while making you feel very glad you don’t live in a nineteenth century bush town.
I’m off to Boston for 7 days, leaving next Sunday, and am hoping to make at least a decent start on Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, whose 1488 pages have been sitting on my shelves for the past 5 years. A friend who worked as a judge’s associate for a year in Queensland once found it so captivating that she read the whole thing while the court was sitting. Except that she couldn’t take a book into court, so she photocopied it chapter-by-chapter.