Monday, 23 July 2018

May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes


May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes
Published in the UK by Granta in October 2012.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £7.71 (PB)
Wordery : from £8.99 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from $1.00 / £0.01 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper. They have been uneasy rivals since childhood. Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life.

In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life - at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer - the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants' desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia. At the novel's core are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation - simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

(I read this book in Dec 2014.) I have awarded May We Be Forgiven three stars overall, but I would actually like to give the first half four stars and the second half just two. Initially the novel is a pretty fast paced descent into horror as our narrator, Harold Silver, finds himself in a family maelstrom caused by his own adultery with his brother's wife and the extreme violence that this unleashes. I enjoyed the drama and pace of these first 250 or so pages. There are darkly humorous passages and the bewilderment of our hero is both real and poignant as he attempts to repair his own life and that of his nephew and niece.

After around about the half way point though, the novel takes a bizarre shift into a surreal fantasy world which sees the introduction of international terrorism, swathes of Nixon-era political blathering, and the sort of saccharine-sweet schmaltz that the Americans can do so well but which I absolutely loathe! Logical plot progression is thrown out the window in favour of stereotyped flat characters and choreographed set pieces that don't bear much relation to each other. Our hero suddenly becomes apparently irresistible to women, patronises both needy American immigrants and South African villagers by throwing vast sums of cash at both, and finds time to adopt an extra child and an elderly couple. The pre-teen nephew and niece seem to mature by at least a decade in a couple of months and there's a lot of description of bodily functions, mostly diarrhoea and belching, but with a truly cringe-inducing phone call about a tampon. I can only think that it's all meant to be funny in a kind of Sex And The City 2 fashion. It isn't.

A very odd book that's about twice as long as is good for it.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A M Homes / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

8 comments:

  1. Haha ... wow, this sounds ... strange. I like strange, but I'm not sure about this one.

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    1. I often like strange too, but this one didn't work for me

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  2. OK, one to add to the 'avoid' list! I draw the line at books that have to describe toilet functions!

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    1. Yep, could have done with a warning about that scene :-(

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  3. I realize darkly comic look means different things to different people. Thanks for your honest review! ♥️

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    1. I'd recommend reading this as a novella - stop in the middle!!

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  4. Oh no! I really struggle to read surreal books so I don't think this will be one I would be able to read. However, I do really like the sound of the first half and I am so sorry the second half let you down so much because it wasn't enjoyable in that sense :(

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    1. I'd only recommend the first half of this one!

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