The Great Concert of the Night

Jonathan Buckley. New York Review Books, $15.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-68137-395-9
This underwhelming American debut from British author Buckley follows a grieving man’s yearlong journal. Late-middle-aged David, divorced and running the Sanderson-Perceval Museum of local history and scientific oddities, pedals back and forth across his life through a series of vignettes and ruminations centered on his former partner, actor Imogen. Now that she’s gone, David revisits her work in several arthouse films as he tries to navigate his life alone, dealing with his ex-wife, his sister, and a transient young man named William whom Imogen encourages him to befriend. While David’s takes on history and literature are insightful and often pleasurable to read, and his evolving, fatherlike relationship to William is moving, the narrator is a confounding character. He seemingly prefers to do nothing, to be alone with his work, and he grumpily disapproves of everyone—from his ex-wife’s new lover to Imogen’s on-screen costars, whom he criticizes for overacting or lack of skill. The women in his life—who all seem to adore him despite himself—appear one-dimensional. Imogen, particularly, is distractingly precocious, and her dreamgirl qualities come across as ridiculous without adding anything to readers’ understanding of David’s psyche or his relationships with women. This novel is far too interested in its narrator’s own supposed brilliance than in the concepts it pertains to be about. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/14/2019
Release date: 01/14/2020
Genre: Fiction
Book - 297 pages - 978-1-908745-77-4
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