Sunday, October 30, 2011

Good or bad? Not quite sure

I'm a little stunned right now, having just finished the latest book by my favorite author, Anne Rivers Siddons. On one hand, I'm thoroughly disappointed, and on the other hand feel that she's finally graduated into the ranks of other slightly crazed but brilliant southern writers. I don't know which is worse. Or better.

On the good side, she's come home again to Atlanta for this book, and she wraps the city and the southern culture around the reader in a way that rings totally true for what I'd call 'true Georgians', those who are natives and who know old Georgia/Atlanta as well as new Georgia/Atlanta. There's a familiarity that soothes. She nails the syrupy persona of a certain kind of southern woman, and the pretensions that were and still are rampant, particularly in and around Atlanta. She mocks both with a edge that I found most satisfying and familiar.

Siddons has always been a magical writer, to me. Her prose is lyrical, her characters and stories deep and lush and satisfying.  I savored every book simply for the beauty of the words strung together one after another, page after page.

From the get-go, this book was different. That lyrical beauty was mostly missing from the prose. Often there were sentences that I had trouble understanding (I thought I was perhaps becoming more senile than I realized, at first). I found it a bit hard to follow at times as later incidents and characters seemed disconnected with earlier parts of the story, and the timelines seemed off, from time to time. I think if you didn't know Atlanta and the south, and if  you weren't familiar with her other books, these might not have been so noticeable. But I'm not sure about that.

Because it was Anne Rivers Siddons, I kept reading and found myself drawn into the story, inexorably grabbed by what is, for her, a very strange storyline, impelled forward to the end.  Although I noticed discrepancies, I couldn't help but read on.  The ending is bizarre (although from the first pages bizarreness is hinted at, so the fact that it would be somehow bizarre should come as no surprise). This is where I think she blends into those other crazed southern writers and I still don't know if that's good or bad. Unlike some other reviews I read on Amazon when I went in to steal the image shown here, I'd say hell yes, read this book! Just don't expect it to be like any other book this woman has ever written.

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