Friday, December 19, 2014

book review: May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

The backstory: May We Be Forgiven won the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2013.

The basics: May We Be Forgiven is the story of the very dysfunctional Silver family. Its main character is Harold, a Nixon scholar and adjunct professor. His brother George has an enviable career, life and family.

My thoughts: The opening pages of May We Be Forgiven are a literary tour de force. Homes packs so much into its first fifty pages, and I was reading with delight, shock and awe. 'If this much has already happened,' I mused, 'where will the next 400 pages take me'? Sadly, Homes did not capitalize enough on the momentum she creates in the novel's first section.

I read this novel relatively quickly and excitedly, but as I neared to the last 100 pages or so, I just wanted it to be over. I was no longer enjoying the story, which seemed by then to be an unnecessary sequel of a hit. Over all, May We Be Forgiven is a curious book. It is unquestionably brilliant at times. It's scope is vast and impressive, and Homes is an aggressive writer (I mean that as a compliment.) Yet it's her aggressive writing that ultimately made this novel disappointing, as it did not meet the expectations she set. Did it make me a fan of Homes? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, but with reservations. Was it one of the most disappointing reads of 2014? Absolutely, but it's moments of brilliance make it worthwhile, if not necessarily prize-worthy.

Favorite passage:  "You are a paranoid motherfucker," he says.
"I am a Nixon scholar," I shout. "I know whereof I speak."

The verdict: Despite wonderful writing, intriguing characters, and a brilliant opening act, May We Be Forgiven  is a book I liked less as it went on. By the end, I was relieved it was over. While it showed me I like A.M. Homes as a writer, I ultimately did not enjoy this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 488 pages
Publication date: September 27, 2012
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy May We Be Forgiven from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit A.M. Homes' website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. I believe she wrote the memoir The Mistress's Daughter which I really enjoyed.

  2. I remember reading this soon after The Goldfinch, and just after the Goldfinch won the Pulitzer. (I wasn't a fan of the Goldfinch) To me, May We Be Forgiven was a better representative novel for The Pulitzer. Crap, now I can't remember what I liked about this book! I know I didn't love it, but it kept my interest and I was able (at the time) to compare it to The Goldfinch.

  3. I still want to read this even though it looses steam part way through. I find that with so many books these days ... if only they were 100 pages shorter!


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