Wednesday, 20 July 2016

G. by John Berger

This has been a hard review to get started on. And I wrote that sentence only to pause and wonder what else to write. Maybe going to get some coffee will help.

And now it's the next day. This review is really stymying me. (Of course, that could be because I'm trying to write my thesis conclusion and that's being difficult as well. All writing is feeling a little difficult this week.) I'll press on, though, to at least get this done and out.

I'm having difficulty because this book is pretty much about a guy who has a lot of sex. Who defines himself in relation to his relationships with women. (Not with the women themselves, if that distinction makes any sense.) He is born at the end of the 19th century to an unwed mother who has more than enough money to support him, and is bohemian enough that it doesn't bother her. His father is a wealthy Italian manufacturer.

He is brought up on a farm, where eventually he is seduced by his aunt. From there, he goes on to try to sleep with many married women (and a few unmarried), more interested in the chase and what these relationships say about him instead of  a collaboration.

That's...sort of most of it. Men around him have other interests, are committed to other things, including breaking world flying records, and overthrowing governments, while the Great War looms ever closer. Because he is half-Italian, he is sent as a spy by the British government, but isn't that interested in being a spy. In fact, he'll only be a spy in as much as it will gain him access to his current intended conquest, the wife of a wealthy man.

There is little to mark him in the world, and when he dies, few will remember him. There are no monuments left behind. No women who will profoundly mourn. There are simply those he met briefly, and, if they were women, consummated the affairs. Most of the affairs seem to be about taking the women away from their husbands instead of being about the women.

Not a very likeable main character, I guess I'm saying. And I don't think he's supposed to be - this is a chronicle of a life that would make barely a ripple, and many people live such, although probably without the wealth G. has behind him. People push him to want more, do more, commit to a cause, even if it is self-aggrandizement.

He does not. Some of the writing here is very good and worth reading, but it is another one of those books that revels in distance, that shows us a character closely without really letting it be intimate. One of those books where I walk away thinking it was a worthy read, but not really feeling any strong emotional reaction to it.

There, review finally written! Hopefully I'm back on track, and conclusion, here I come.

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