I only blog about books I like, which quite frankly is why I haven’t blogged much lately. I am in a major rutt where I don’t really like much of what I read. Since I am blogging about THIS book, it goes without saying that I DID like it, however; it is a difficult book and only for a pretty serious reader.
My long time book club came through for me as I read this one, as somewhere in the middle I grew weary of the heroine, Serena Frome and came close to giving up. The quick finishers of my club encouraged me on and I ended up really liking this book after I got through a pretty difficult and slow moving middle section.
The book opens with one of the best paragraphs I have read in a long time and as a John Irving fan I can be pretty critical of first sentences and openings. Here it is: “My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with Plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Security Service. I didn’t return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing.” Good, right? I love it, it tells the whole story in the first paragraph and it sounds good.
And as Ian builds out the character of Serena in her first person narration, I loved her even more. She is so much like me! She is a reader and she is my kind of reader. “My needs were simple. I didn’t bother much with themes…and skipped fine descriptions. ..Generally I preferred people to be falling in or out of love…I liked someone to say “Marry me” by the end.” As much as I try to be a sophisticated reader I do love this kind of writing.
In the middle of the book it gets deep into British politics and a double crossing scheme. I did learn a lot but it just got a little boring.
However, the ending has a major, major twist as it ends with a letter written by Serena’s ruined lover which it turns out has been the narrator of this story the entire time. It was pretty darn clever I have to say. As a reader, we too, got double crossed!
So, if you can be patient, and in this case I might even suggest some heavy duty skimming over details, read it. And if you do, let’s talk because this is definitely a book that needs to be discussed either with your club or with your favorite blogger.