So after my recent moan regarding reading bad books, I finally got my hands on one that fairly blew me away. A.M. Homes’ most recent novel, May We Be Forgiven, won the Women’s Prize For Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) earlier this month and I picked it up in Hodges Figgis a couple of weeks ago. I tore through it in two days and was left with that feeling you get at the end of a brilliant book; sad that it was over, satisfied by a great story, and thoroughly in awe of Ms. Homes’ considerable writing talent.
I’m not one for spoiling the plot of books or films in reviews. I think it’s unfair to other readers and somewhat unprofessional on the part of the reviewer. That being said it’ll be hard for me to comprehensively review this book as the plot is in full swing by page fifteen. Given that the book is 480 pages long, you can see that Homes wastes no time in getting the story underway and the narrative intensity continues through to the end of the book, resulting in page-turning into the wee hours.
May We Be Forgiven tells the story of Harry Silver and his brother George. George is the younger of the two, an Emmy winning TV producer with two children, a beautiful wife and a comfortable home. Harry is a history professor who is writing a book on US President Richard Nixon and married to a Chinese-American woman named Claire. Claire is in senior management, “running Asia”, and traveling the world. Their marriage is already shaky and as Harry says, “She asked very little of me. And that meant she wasn’t there and gave very little back.”
George has a history of violent behaviour and explosive outbursts. One evening he is driving home and has a car crash killing two people. This puts in motion a chain of events that impacts both brothers and changes their lives forever. (And here’s where I’ll stop for fear of ruining the book for you!)
Homes is a writer who excels in every area possible. The plot is well paced and gripping, the characters are fully rounded and believable, and her style is well crafted without forgoing the emotional wallop that I think is essential for a book to stay with the reader. The dialogue in the book was one of the first things that stood out for me: extremely funny, natural and fluid.
The novel’s themes are that of betrayal (Richard Nixon being a great example of this), what constitutes family in our fractured society, and what love really means. It’s a compelling take on modern American life and a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for a literary novel that you can escape into. I have found a new writing heroine and I hope one day to be as accomplished as Ms. Homes.
Here’s a wonderful interview with the author where she discusses her process.