A novel set to make waves; thick in volume, boasting the New York skyline on its cover and with rumors of publisher, Fourth Estate, printing more galleys than Gilbert's first novel, The Normals, printed in finished copy totality.
It's a different novel, one I wouldn't pick up, it's too long, too manly and too well-written. Ok, you have me there, a novel that is too well-written is completely perfect, so I digress.
It all starts with AN Dyer, a famous author whose great work, Ampersand, is a Salinger-type classic work, and set work for schools across the USA. AN. Dyer is about to give a eulogy at his best friend's (Charles Topping) funeral, told from the view of a son, not AN Dyer's but Charles' son.
Centering itself around the relationships of fathers and their sons, this epic tome threads itself against the picturesque setting that is upper east side NYC. Faced with the heartbreak and certain regret that now awaits him and his determined demise (death) AN Dyer is determined to play a sort of 'make-up' with his sons; cleverly referred to in the title, are overshadowed by their father's success - Ampersand.
It truly is an epic tale to say the least but about 90 pages in, I felt as if I swam through exotic chocolate that I couldn't afford. While gorgeously crafted, I have to - sadly and regretfully - say that this book found me at the wrong time. Written with a slight hand, I found I couldn't identify with the seemingly all-male cast (and a handful of what seemed to be ambitious women who were downplayed).
Oh, gosh, I don't want to be the one banging the feminist stick, but I am. I need at least one bat shit crazy woman (think Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona) to challenge these men, or at least make them work harder. Perhaps that is the point though, that fathers do think they have enough time with their sons, or wish their sons turn out a certain way. All end up disappointed in one way or another.
This is a John Irving style of writing, challenging but rewarding, even though I didn't manage to fully read this set-to-be-great novel, I will emphasize that patience is required for this novel, something I don't have now, but the basis is there with Gilbert's slight of comedic plotting, characters dutifully crafted to play their parts, and a setting worth writing about. Perhaps, when I can be found on a beach with endless hours ahead of me... Maybe then.