29 Aug 2012

The Boring Lives of Others

Some of you might remember "Privileges" by Jonathan Dee which I reviewed a while ago and today, time has come to review his novel "Palladio". I had looked so much forward to reading this book because "Privileges" was so amazing and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Dee's writing. His writing is incredibly skilled and he can do things with words that few authors manage. He is an artist and his ability to tell a story is great. 

The story that Dee tells in "Palladio" is a story of star-crossed fates, maybe even star-crossed lovers. Molly grows up in suburbia in a dysfunctional home where love is sadly lacking and in depression, frustration and an attempt to find love, she does something that leads her to be ostracized not just from the town but from her family as well. She feels to Berkeley, where she meets John, a young, impressionable man who falls head over heels in love with her. When Molly one day disappears without any clue to why or where she is, she leaves behind a wound in John's soul that never quite heals. 
Years later, John is successful in the fickle world of advertising when the enfant terrible, the prodigy of the advertising world, Mal Osbourne, tempts him to leave New York in pursuit of art and adventure. John takes the leap to Virginia and becomes an important piece of the puzzle that is Osbourne's empire. But then one day, out of the blue, his and Molly's paths cross again. 

Despite all of his talent, his beautiful artistry, "Palladio" did not work for me. For a very specific reason.  The two main characters, Molly and John, are annoying, frustrating and I found them impossible to empathize with. John is a gutless whiner who takes no responsibility for his life and just lets it happen to him without taken active part. He is an anti-hero but not a lovable one. Molly is to be pitied. If John is not a pilot in his own airplane of life, she is not even an air hostess, hardly even a passenger. Throughout most of the book she is depressed and she lets the depression guide her life, lets it take control and steer her away from anything that might call on her passion, her will to live not just survive. It is impossible to feel any love, any  empathy, any interest in these two. 

The story is fantastic, it's a really good story, but the characters leave me cold. I can't help wishing that Dee had told the story from the angle of Mal Osbourne instead. This maverick of a man, a dreamer with little to no interest in his fellow men, is so much more interesting even if he is not more likeable. The story would still have been difficult to empathise with but at least it would have had the advantage of a dramatic protagonist. 

Read it if: You think your life sucks or you think you're a boring person -  Molly and John will put this into perspective!

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