Quartet for the End of Time

Johanna Skibsrud. Norton, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-07373-7
This intricate, ambitious novel by the author of The Sentimentalists (winner of the Giller Prize) takes its theme—the illusions of time—from Olivier Messiaen’s musical composition of the same name. In 1932, an ad-hoc army of veterans occupies Washington, D.C., demanding the immediate payment of their demobilization bonuses. Rebellious Alden Kelly is drawn to the makeshift camps, where he falls prey to Communist operatives. When Alden is arrested carrying an explosive, his politically powerful father pressures the boy’s young sister, Sutton, to falsely identify veteran Arthur Sinclair as the guilty party. Alden is released, but Arthur—whose fate is never clear—continues to haunt Alden, Sutton, and Arthur’s son, Douglas, who crisscrosses the Depression-ravaged country in search of his father. Alden never frees himself from the incident’s burden; as WWII ends, past and present, truth and illusion, merge in his mind. Like McEwan’s Atonement, the novel examines an act of personal betrayal against a sweeping backdrop of historical conflict. The philosophical musings and narrative detours Skibsrud uses to manipulate time sometimes make the pacing sluggish. But at its best, the novel is a haunting meditation on responsibility with vivid glimpses of history, and a distinctive and nuanced voice. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/11/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-393-35182-8
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-393-24597-4
Hardcover - 480 pages - 978-0-670-06599-8
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-14-318196-5
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