Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown: No. 51

The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne

I have been following Berne's work because she went to Wesleyan and because her first novel, A Crime in the Neighborhood, was very good. I simply didn't like A Perfect Arrangement, despite the good reviews. But I decided to persevere, and I was rewarded amply with "The Ghost at the Table." For one thing, this book reminded me of how small New England is, as characters zip around from Boston to Hartford and back. It also, I thought, presented a realistic portrait of a fractured family and how one daughter, displaced to California, comes back and manages to do all the wrong things. I'm reminded of a writing seminar in which I was criticized because one of my characters did something unlikable; well we all do unlikable things, and our characters need to do those sorts of things to demonstrate dimensions. The book moves back and forth from childhood to adulthood and uses Mark Twain's equally troubled household as a backdrop. I remember reading this either right before "The Uses of Enchantment" by Heidi Julavits, a book with similar themes.

No comments: