Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two Down

I'm through The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, and I wasn't blown away. It's the second novel of hers I've read in the past month or so, the first being The Gate of Angels, which I preferred. Fitzgerald is a careful writer, which I like. I think part of my problem is that she does several things well, but doesn't do any of them particularly well -- the work isn't particularly funny, insightful, or pacey. It's gentle and smart, but its pleasures are much more reliable than captivating.

She's also concerned with social positions and how they affect relationships, a theme that's always left me cold. As opposed to William Trevor, another older, precise writer, who gets inside the minds of his characters, Fitzgerald mostly stands at a slight remove, as in The Bookshop, where the drama rests in the townspeople's various reactions to the opening of the new store and its owner. Didn't get my pulse racing.

The Blue Flower seems to be considered her masterpiece, and I picked up At Freddie's and enjoyed the opening a lot, so I'll probably read those someday. But after these two, I'm in no rush.


Blogger Tim said...

I LOVE Fitzgerald: I think she's one of the better novelists of the last 50 years. I don't think either of the books you've read are among her best. I would recommend "Innocence", "Human Voices", and "The Blue Flower." (And "Offshore"). I think she's very funny, actually (your comments notwithstanding). I'll find some excerpts.

7:06 PM  
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