Thursday, April 23, 2009

Truth and Consequences

Truth and Consequences by Alison Lurie was originally published in 2005. My paperback copy has 232 pages. This is an easy read. The plot is basic, fairly formulaic; the characters are rather unlikable caricatures rather than fleshed out. There were some insightful moments but all in all this was just a pleasant, bland time filler. (The Publisher's Weekly review below is spot-on for me.) Lurie is technically an excellent writer but new readers might want to read her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Foreign Affairs. Also my distaste for romance novels is well known so perhaps I'm not the last word on Truth and Consequences. Recommended for readers of romance novels; So-so for the rest of us.

From Publishers Weekly
Lurie's various academic romances, set against the backdrop of a thinly veiled Cornell University, point in a straight line to tragicomic double-think relationship writers like Lorrie Moore. This latest foray begins promisingly: Jane MacKenzie fails to recognize her own husband, Alan, as he approaches their house from a distance, so bent and changed is he by his aching back. He's an architecture professor (expert on Victoriana); she's a university administrator. When visiting poet Delia Delaney takes up residence, it's Jane who has to attend to her diva-like demands, while simultaneously trying to cope with an incapacitated Alan. Once he's up and around, though, sexy and selfish Delia toys with, then seduces him. The affair gives Alan a midlife lift, and, on discovery, gives Jane a reason to leave him, perhaps for Henry, Delia's ombudsman husband and Jane's highly organized mirror-image. The problem is that Lurie, whose Pulitzer Prize–winning Foreign Affairs is everything this isn't, doesn't seem much interested in fleshing out her characters' romps. Remedial repetitions of basic facts, character descriptions and plot points throughout give the proceedings a strangely clinical feel, as if her characters' reactions were too base to engage with fully: they are reported almost dutifully, though not without offhand flashes of crackly brilliance. Copyright © Reed Business Information

"On a hot midsummer morning, after over sixteen years of marriage, Jane Mackenzie saw her husband fifty feet away and did not recognize him." opening sentence

"It occurred to Jane for the first time that there was a pattern here. Lately, Alan usually refused any offer of assistance at first, but soon corrected himself, asking for various objects and services. On other occasions he would wait longer, until she was somewhere else in the house and in the middle of some other activity, and then he would call for help." pg. 3

"In a way we're not really husband and wife anymore. We're more housekeeper and employer. Or maybe, in the language of a blandly instructive pamphlet she had read while waiting for Alan in some doctor's office, caregiver and caregetter." pg. 5

"For months Jane had been wonderful to Alan, and Alan had been grateful. But now she was tired of being wonderful, and Alan, she suspected, was tired of being grateful." pg. 15

"Alan knew he was difficult and impossible, and he was becoming more and more so. He also knew that as time went on his pain and self-absorption, his depression and anxiety, were driving his wife further and further from him. she never said this, never hinted it, but he assumed that she was angry and full of despair, just as he was angry and full of despair." pg. 17

"Nobody wanted to hear bad news, he had discovered, except for certain ghouls who feed on the misery of others." pg. 21

" 'To an American, a Canadian is something like - like this cabbage.' He lifted it from the basket.'Organic, healthy, solid, reliable, boring.' " pg. 83

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