Saturday, November 14, 2009

That Old Cape Magic: a review

Richard Russo's latest is about a marriage falling apart, with a great deal of influence from the in-laws. Jack Griffin's was born of two college professors who immediately disapproved of his wife, Joy, because she didn't do graduate work. Their own marriage was rather a mess itself and Griffin spent much of his life trying not to repeat their mistakes.

The narrative thread was hard for me to follow, as the story was told mostly in flashbacks; indeed, there were flashbacks within flashbacks. At the beginning of the story Griffin and Joy are heading to a wedding and within that present Griffin shares a great deal about his earlier life and his parents' marriage. Then it skips ahead to the day after the wedding and flashes back to the wedding itself. Continuing along this way for the duration of the book, I became disoriented a number of times because I didn't know where I was.

Though the story was rather dismal and the characters flawed to a point that I couldn't sympathize much, there were some things that I liked. Minor characters Sunny Kim and Marguerite were more interesting and colorful than the main characters, and certainly more likable. The short story that Griffin struggles with throughout the novel also illustrated some interesting perspectives about our memories of long-ago events, which was great food for thought.

In general, I would say it wasn't Russo's best work. The only other book of his that I've read is Bridge of Sighs, but it greatly outshone this one. If you are reading your way through all his books it is worth reading, but I wouldn't start with it if his work is new to you.


C. Kriofske said...

I just finished reading this as well! To me, it felt comfortable like an old glove, but a bit slight... certainly not as ambitious (or as good) as BRIDGE OF SIGHS. Russo is one of my favorite authors - try NOBODY'S FOOL or STRAIGHT MAN next.

3goodrats said...

I'll definitely be trying more of his books - thanks!

mitra said...

I loved Straight Man. It's quite different from his other books. It's more of a comedy.