My rating: 5 of 5 stars
*I loved this book. I’ve read my share of James, but it was years and years ago. When I started reading this book the first thing I had to do was sloooooow the heck down. This is a novel to be savored, like rich chocolate. The writing is luxurious and when you relax into it you feel transported to a different, more dignified, time. Not that people weren’t as manipulative and nasty as ever, but just better dressed and more well-spoken while going about it. . .
I was also thrilled to see my old friends, adverbs, back in such abundance. When is the last time somebody in the literary world dared to use so many adverbs? Heyns uses them fearlessly and to great effect. Each sentence is like a mini work of art and you get the impression Heyns lovingly considered the worth and meaning of every single word before it earned its place on the page.
Heyns has a wicked sense of humor and a poison pen which is very reminiscent of James and Wharton. The internal reflections of the main character, Frieda, are what really make this book great. She is at once innocent and very insightful, looking from the outside, while being slowly drawn in.
Heyns is enamored of James but is still capable of portraying him “warts and all” and I found I liked the novelist more and more as the book went on. It is sometimes easy to view the artist as self-indulgent and affected, but Heyns’s characterization is sensitive and avoids the obvious traps.
I wouldn’t say this was a beach read, but it would go well with a shady, quiet river and some chocolate.
I wish the ending had been more fulfilling, but fans of James will expect an ending like this. You get the feeling Heyns is making Frieda suffer so she will have something to write about, something to push her on her way to becoming an author.
Anyhow, I really enjoyed this book and am grateful something this elegant can still find its way into a publishing house and then out again, without giving in to twenty-first expectations. Beautiful.
*My reviews are about my enjoyment of a book as a reader. I’m not a literary critic and I don’t delve deeply into the psychological motivations of the author and/or characters. If I am reviewing a book on my blog, I consider it worth reading. Books I read and don’t care for, for one reason or another, I do not review. There are plenty of other places to find negative reviews.