Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Henry James would have liked Peter Cameron. The author of three well-received novels (most recently, Andorra), Cameron has a Jamesian love of conversation and a belief that when people venture into foreign countries they are revealed, if not at their best , then at least at their most interesting. In this captivating new book, Omar Razaghi, a young academic at the University of Kansas, is trying to write a biography of Jules Gund, a half-Jewish Uruguayan who published one celebrated novel before blowing his own head off (the top of which "came off like an egg," one character observes). Gund left behind a dysfunctional family including Caroline, his wife; Arden, his mistress; Portia, their daughter; Adam, his brother; and Pete, Adam's companion, who all remain shipwrecked on the same decaying farm in the Uruguayan hinterlands, unable to move forward with their respective lives. Omar needs permission from Gund's family to write an authorized biography and secure a substantial research stipend (he has already lied to the research committee, saying he has the authorization). When the family refuses, Omar travels unbidden to Uruguay, hurtling himself into a nest of relationships only a very talented writer could construct. Omar, an Iranian by birth who was raised in Canada, is an expatriate among expatriates; he says of Gund, "his life bridges worlds and cultures and religions." The same could be said of this complex book, which compresses issues of identity, belonging and connection among diverse peoples into one tiny Uruguayan homestead. Readers who immerse themselves in the Gund family's knotty presence will be impressed by the novel's intelligence and narrative drive. (May) Forecast: Cameron has a core audience of gay readers, but he has always defied any narrow categorization. Here his investigation of larger issues, especially cross-cultural identity, should grant this highly readable novel broad appeal. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Cameron, who has to his credit half a dozen literary novels (e.g., The Weekend) and several publications in The New Yorker and Grand Street, here demonstrates a carefully honed style, an eye for insight and humor, and an ability to create a story that is both substantial and aesthetically pleasing. The plot involves a graduate student in possession of a grant that will allow him the time to write and guaranteed publication of a biography of a now-deceased author whose one published novel seems to speak directly to him. However, the author's literary executors refuse him authorization, so he travels to their home in Uruguay as much to impress his girlfriend as to gain that authorization. The executors are a delightfully odd lot, each self-possessed and deeply flawed. And it is among them that the graduate student finds both true love and a new home. Cameron's capacity to portray emotions and interpersonal communication seems limitless. The good guys, bad guys, and landscapes of rural Uruguay, collegiate Kansas, and even a New York City unseen by one character for 40 years become quickly and convincingly known to the reader. Cheerful without being mindless, this is for all libraries. Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An exceptionally moving and self-assured account of the odyssey of a young academic who sets off for South America to research the biography of an Uruguayan writer-and falls into a viper's nest of deception and intrigue. Graduate students (in the humanities, at least) aren't usually noted for machinelike efficiency, but Omar Razaghi is ineffectual even by the low standards of academe. A doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas, Omar is the sort who can set an apartment aflame and fall into quicksand with equal ease-but he is a fair scholar who knows how to write. His dissertation on the South American novelist Jules Gund has won him a fellowship with a generous stipend and guarantee of publication-if he can secure authorization for the biography he plans to write. Unfortunately, Gund's literary estate is controlled by his three heirs (a wife, a mistress, and a brother), who turned down Omar's polite letter requesting authorization. The matter probably would have ended there were it not for Omar's more forceful girlfriend Deirdre, who convinces him to get on a plane and confront the family directly. In Uruguay, he quickly discovers that the opposition is not unanimous: Gund's brother Adam is quite happy to agree to the biography-provided that Omar smuggle a few jewels back to America for him. Gund's mistress Arden also seems open to argument-maybe because she finds that she more and more enjoys having Omar around to argue with. Only Gund's widow Caroline is adamantly opposed. Could her resistance have something to do with the circumstances of Gund's suicide? Or the unpublished manuscript of Gund's last novel that she may or may not have destroyed? Is there some other, more hidden reason? It seems like an awful lot of work just to get a stipend. Witty, intelligent, engrossing: Cameron (Andorra, 1997, etc.) offers a leisurely and old-fashioned narrative that nonetheless moves directly to a surprising but credible end.
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