Hatchet Job of the Day
The narrative darts in all directions, setting up any number of moral dilemmas, and providing back-stories for everybody concerned, however peripherally. Even the quack doctor with whom Iris has a brief affair is given a full psychological and social analysis. So is Bea’s ex-husband Leo, who once dreamed of writing symphonies, but now composes film music in Hollywood … And all this in prose that’s almost ferociously determined to glitter. Virtually every sentence here is an undisguised attempt at fine phrase-making — and while the success rate is high, that still leaves plenty which try a bit too hard … In theory, of course, it does the heart good to see a respected octogenarian writer still going flat out like this. In practice, while there are plenty of individual pleasures on offer, the overall sense is of characters, themes and prose that are piled up rather than integrated.
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