Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews

Renee Abigail Penelope Harold Meg

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from Renée's Reviews



Seven Types of Ambiguity

by Elliot Perlman
Faber & Faber paperback

Back to a Victorian novel of exploration, this is the story of a man obsessed by love. It contains psychodrama, social critique of the world of obsessive consumerism, courtroom scenes of high tension, all brimming over with moral and emotional dilemmas. The plot turns on the abduction albeit very briefly, of a small boy by Simon the main character of the novel.  Simon is in love with Anna, the sweetheart of his student days whom he has not seen for ten years.  She has meanwhile married and had a son.  It is this son who is abducted by Simon. To understand the drama, to follow the reasoning of this obsessive lover, Perlman divides the book into seven chapters each of which tells the tale by a different participant and through a different pair of lenses. Hence the ambiguities of truth.  There are digressions on many subjects, everything from psychiatry to the stock market, all are absorbing and interesting. The book reveals how people are affected by one another and by the confusions of the time in which they live and form their judgments. The final chapter is seriously flawed.  The author seems to feel that he must tie up all the ends.  Why should he?  Things hardly ever are resolved in life. Why should they be in fiction? But the book is compulsively readable, as the New Yorker said when it came out in 2004. I loved all of it. Except for the last chapter, which was a real disappointment.

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