Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Bigamist's Daughter by Alice McDermott

I've read a few later Alice McDermott books, ones that centre more around Irish-American families, and while I can't say I adored them, they certainly struck me more than this book, one of her first, if not her very first, novels. A Bigamist's Daughter, well, I just can't quite figure out what this book is supposed to be about, or even how it is about it. It's fairly mediocre.

The main character is an editor at a vanity press. She knows it's not a completely ethical job, but dismisses it. Her father may have been a bigamist, but that's not explored. Her mother has moved on since his death, but that's only in a few small vignettes. She starts sleeping with an author who has come to her to have his dreams of publication fulfilled.

His novel, which she never reads, is also about a bigamist, inspiring her to...well, what? Thoughts about her father? Sort of, but not really, not in depth, and not in prose that shows me anything of perception or depth.

Everything in this book just seems to surface-level to me. We never really get what's going on underneath the surface of anyone, let alone the main character. She's an 80s career woman, who, I guess, still misses the lover she left. Again, not much detail here - alluded to, but not really explored.

Maybe I don't sympathize enough with the main character - she does so little thinking about her own life, about her job, her ex, her mother, her father, her new lover. This is truly the unexamined life, but yet, it's not even a commentary on that. I'm not sure what it's a commentary on.

I didn't hate this book, I was just a little bored by it. Everyone in it seemed to live so far removed from other human beings that I suppose it's a tale of big city ennui. But even there, it didn't grab me.

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