Sunday, November 04, 2007

Book #23: Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital

Last night I completed book #23 for this year, Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital. I liked it, enjoyed a lot of it, but I didn't think it was as good as Oyster. Her last three novels (Oyster, Due Preparations for the Plague, and Orpheus Lost) riff off of current events and do so in fascinating ways. What I love most about her novels is her ability to be lyrical, to be literary, and to have great plots. Orpheus was no exception. She takes a musician and a mathematician, and somehow links it all to terrorism, underground prisons in Iraq, and freelance interrogators.
This novel is less successful than the previous two, in my opinion, because she gets a little off-track with the characters. There are whole chapters that don't advance the plot, but rather give backstory about one of the main characters, Leela (and you know how I feel about backstory!). And at that point, I didn't care. I just wanted to find out what happened. And I think too much of the plot was elided rather than depicted. I wanted to know more about what happened in the Iraqi prison and what happened behind the scenes. I think the characters could have been more fully explored. There was a lot of darkness in the novel, but whereas in Oyster she went way into the darkness and depicted what was happening in Orpheus she talks about what happened, but it's never really clear what occurred. Maybe, in some ways, it's realistic. Maybe the characters will never really know what happened. But I think as a reader, I wanted to know more about the circumstances.
In any case, it was a good read. I read it in about a week. I will definitely meet my goal of 25 books this year, maybe I'll even make it to 30! But I'm still trying to finish Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks. I've been reading it for more than a year. I have a good feeling though. I can do it!

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