Thursday, February 10, 2005

"Hard question, to be posed to Manhattanites: would you rather have a lover or an extra room? The answer being, a lover with his own apartment"

Just finished a really superb novel, The Furies, by Fernanda Eberstadt. I loved this book! (With the reservation that I wish the ending hadn't worked quite like it did--too much of the avenging furies, not enough of the real-life muddling along of people in the world.) But this is a really great read. It's one of those rare novels that manages to combine the charms of the most readable kinds of fiction with the substance of the most intellectually ambitious. Aside from everything else, I liked the way that this novel about love is also very much a novel about work--the Russia/think-tanky work of Gwen is just as realistically conjured as the indie puppeteer Lower-East-Side stuff of Gideon's. There's a bit of (the good old-school Bonfire of the Vanities-style) Tom Wolfe here, and even of Dickens; and the satisfactions of a novel by Jennifer Weiner; great sympathetic imagination; sort of like a sharper and better constructed version of The Corrections; anyway, it's great.

In contrast, Linda Fairstein's The Kills is very thin fare indeed. Fairstein is a highly competent writer, whose background gives her the material for smart and persuasive crime fiction; on the down side, the plot here is pretty flimsy, and--worse--the narrator (prosecutor Alexandra Cooper) is unpersuasive. She's too princessy--why all this rich girl background?--and the voice never really comes clear.

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