Tuesday 16 December 2008

After the Fox

Just to prove I have read *something * this month...

Quite a while ago I wrote about second-book-syndrome. By that I meant the second book you re
ad by an author, after you've loved one. You might be reading them in order they were written, might be completely different - but it's so difficult for the second book to live up to the first. I wrote the first blog post about Frank Baker's Before I Go Hence, which was good, but nowhere near as good as Miss Hargreaves, which is one of my '50 Books'. I haven't read another novel by Baker since, though I have a few waiting on my shelves. Today's post is about another '50 Books' author, and the second book I've read by him - Aspects of Love by David Garnett.

I bought this in a secondhand bookshop in London a while ago, and read most of it on the train home - then a lull, and read the rest last week. I was attracted to it, other than by Garnett's name, by its brevity. The blurb says:

'Alone in a villa in the South of France, a penniless French actress and a star-struck English boy enjoy an idyll which they thought could not last. The years prove them wrong. Their entanglement endures, changing slowly, bringing in others - all of them concerned to keep the taste of life on the tip of their tongue.'

Well, that was quite misleading. I was anticipating a beautiful love story, but nuanced by Modernist whirls, as it were. Lady Into Fox, though it put some people off with its metamorphosis, was at heart a moving love story, told with a spectacular linguistic skill. Aspects of Love was like reading a rollercoaster - dramatic event after dramatic event whisked past me, before I had time to work out what was happening. When the blurb says the central relationship is 'changing slowly', they mean she goes off with his uncle; he shoots her, she has a daughter with the uncle, who falls in love with him... I usually love short novels, as they give the opportunity for something simple and polished, portraits of characters which shine like gems. Aspects of Love had some good points, but should either have cut out half the plot or doubled its length. I don't know what Garnett was trying to say, but whatever it was didn't convince me - I am rather disappointed, and can't say I recommend this novel. The odd sentence was beautiful, but you some sentences do not a great novel make. Shame.

And now the question is... will I bother with a third book by Garnett?


  1. It sounds very dramatic! Shame it was disappointing. I really need to read 'Lady Into Fox'.

    Bizarrely, I can't at present think of any examples of 'second-book syndrome'. I think when I fall in love with certain authors, they can do no wrong. Having said that, I couldn't get past the first chapter of Hardy's 'Desperate Remedies', and that's saying something...
    - Button

  2. You may have heard me mention that my sister is writing her first novel. Someone said she wrote a bit like Anita Shreve so I felt it was my sisterly duty to read Ms Shreve's output. I started with "Light on Snow" and thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that before i finished it I had amassed a mass of Shreves. What a mistake that was. I couldn't be bothered with them and I couldn't understand how the same writer had written Light on Snow.
    Oh nad by the way I couldn't really see any comparison between my baby Sis's writing and Anita's.

  3. Try a book by James Lee Burke and then you have to try another and another. He's the best mystery novelist bar none !!

  4. Perhaps now you should go and see the Lloyd Webber musical based on this book, Simon. Not that I have myself but I like the song 'Love changes everything' which comes from that musical.

  5. Ah! That makes the bookseller's comment make much more sense... he asked me if I were going to write a musical, and I had no idea what he was talking about. How strange. Maybe I should have read the book more carefully...


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