The cover blurbs on this dense book gushed with praise: "an avant-garde epic" said one, "terrifically stylish, acrobatic and insidious", said another. Well, says I, I couldn't finish the damn thing. I hate not finishing books, I feel (particularly in this case what with all the encomiums) I'm lacking something. But, here's the thing: I had no sympathy for any of the major characters, and all the long bits of exquisite prose (it was exquisite, no argument there) finally bored me stiff. Too much navel gazing for me. Set mainly in pre- and post-Great War England, and in Germany, the juxtaposition of the minutae of daily life and the coming great political upheavals, still didn't capture me. Serge, the protagonist (I suppose), is a coke-sniffing adult...he was a nasty little boy who pulled the wings off moths. I didn't like him as a kid, as a young aviator in World War I, or as a post-war adult. I didn't care much for his family, either, although some of the early scenes at the family home/school for the deaf/silkworm farm were spookily perfect. There are whole worlds in the book, and perhaps if I'd had more patience I could've entered them. But I couldn't, so with apologies to Mr. McCarthy who I am sure is a fine, fine writer of fine books that just aren't for me, the book gets a 3.
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