My rating: 3 of 5 stars
i bought this book a couple years ago, tried to read it, and couldn’t get past the silliness of the premise. but i told myself i’d try again.
i still had a hard time getting past the silliness of the premise–150 pages into it, i was still thinking, “ya, right, britains are going to let the government smash their families, take away their children, and divide the country into four. based on the moldering theory of the four humours. ya right.”
but i did partially succeed in shoving that thought into the basement as i read.
so we travel with our protag from his natal family to his newly-assigned one, to adulthood, and thence around all four countries. there and back again. and some 25 years into the social experiment, there are two things worth noting: that most people have begun to behave true to type, and that some few cannot be typed and must be cast out.
there are a lot of interesting things in this book–oddities, scenes, moments… but they are not well held-together. particularly the White People. i found them utterly fascinating, yet as soon as their utility to the plot is done, they are abandoned without having left much of a mark on our protag.
about halfway through the narrative of the White People, the book starts to disintegrate. from that point forward things start to get weirder, until finally we too are abandoned at the end of the book without resolution.
i suppose this book is a “psychological novel,” a term which i find rather loathsome–aren’t all novels with fully-formed characters psychological novels? perhaps they should instead be reclassified as “belly-button gazing novels,” in which all the psychological speculation in the world can’t levitate a protag to act with intention (beyond, perhaps, one or two flailings at impulse).
ok the more i think about this book, the crankier i’m getting. so–to leave it with one last thought–
as i was reading this book, i was also listening to Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.* Wharton’s use of language is a thrill–every word, every metaphor, contributes to the scene she’s trying to build. in contrast, while Thomson writes some very pretty metaphors, they just lie there like dead butterflies–they don’t further the intention of the scene. after a while, this really got on my nerves.
*listening while knitting, reading before bed–not both at the same time 🙂