Monday, January 21, 2008
Book Review Monday
I am a big fan of used bookstores and despise having to pay $14 for a simple paperback book that I'm not sure I will like. So, I've found two great little stores, one in the Italian Market and one on 10th and Pine stuffed to the gills with used books of all kinds. I decided to pick up The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve since I had read The Pilots's Wife a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. I am unable to give The Last Time They Met the same review. I am still somewhat on the fence about whether I liked it or not. It is a story told in somewhat of a backward sense. A middle aged Linda Fallon starts off the story attending a writer's poetry meeting and runs into an old flame, Thomas Janes. They meet together, catch up, and end up in bed together. She has lost her husband and her children are grown, and her feelings for this man are still quite strong. They often refer to "things that happened in the past", with very little explanation. Linda goes through some painful and rigorous questioning of her life, reflecting on her marriage, her children, etc. The reader is then taken back in time to the last time they had met, in Africa. It turns out that she was in Africa as a teacher, and he was in Africa accompanying his wife, who was a doctor. Since both are married at the time, they begin having an affair, which is ultimately discovered, leading to a very dramatic confrontation. It is during this part of the book that you get to know Thomas better. The book shifts from his perspective to her perspective, back and forth. They send love letter to each other and are painfully, all-consuming in love with each other. After the confrontation, the reader is then taken back in time to when Linda and Thomas met in high school and how they came to be high school sweethearts. In the end, the last few chapters explain many things the characters have been alluding to, and the last few sentences of the book actually reveal an unexpected ending. Altogether, I found this book interesting, although a bit slow. The beginning third of the book is spent on so much description that it become tedious. Initially, the character of Thomas Janes was actually somewhat creepy and weird, although I think the author was going for intellectual and direct. Linda is somewhat uninteresting, concerned about her looks more than her life. (Perhaps, when I reach middle age, I might identify with Linda as a character more.) As the story unfolds, I felt some compassion for Linda and Thomas. They seem both to be trapped in unhappy marriages, but I was not comfortable with the whole "cheating" thing. I was not endeared to their situation very much, even though they were the main characters. He despises his wife in an unnatural way, yet is too cowardly to get out of it and be up front with her. Her husband seems to be a bit naive and dopey, and she clearly uses him, yet also will not be honest with him. The last third of the book, however, I fell in love with the characters. They are young, silly, interesting and dynamic. They meet and date, and it seems so fresh and new and exciting. He is an awkward teenage boy, and she a shy and interesting young woman. They have yet to face the hardships their relationship has caused. The end of this book was really the redeeming factor for me in this book. I could not put it down. I actually stayed up until 3am to finish it. The author does leave a few loose ends. We are only exposed to when these two people meet, so we have no idea what has happened between these times. It is a unique book which tackles some pretty intense situations with a generally interesting prose. If you are looking for a different type of love story, this might be it for you.