Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Damage" by Josephine Hart

Here's a book that was published nearly 20 years ago. Since then, for all I know, it's been forgotten. I'd never heard of it, nor did I know a thing about its author, so I had absolutely no preconceived notions about this book. I took a risk in buying it, as it could have been a suckfest. On the other hand, it only cost 50 cents, so what the heck.

The book starts by asking a lot of questions to which I do not know the answers, but I knew by their nature that reading further would not resolve them. The first chapter may be the most thought-provoking and introspective chapter of the book. Not only that, but its last sentence invoked tragedy. There may be nothing more likely to hold my interest against my will.

Unfortunately, after the first few chapters I was just not very excited about reading this book. I think it's because no one had ever told me, "Wow, I loved this book, you've GOT to read it, you won't regret it." I never realized before how important that was to me. But the chapters went by so quickly, and the book itself was so short, and five minutes later when I was half finished I had to keep going.

What unfolded was a tale of obsession told by the narrator, a man who suddenly realizes that, until now, he has never really lived. Of course, that's pretty much just a euphemism for having an affair. But, euphemism or not, with a strange detachment he allows this passion to sweep away everything else in his life. And, would you have ever guessed it? Damage is done.

I had trouble deciding whether this book was well-written. Sometimes it just seemed SO melodramatic, which almost made me think of VC Andrews, but I pushed that thought from my mind. It never descended into romance novel territory, and though there was certainly sex in the book (because what would an affair be without it?), it wasn't of the highly-detailed and embarrassing variety. The book had a certain timeless quality that didn't tie it down to a specific decade. It was not vapid, nor did it cause me to fear I was losing brain cells as I read.

On the contrary, the book invited interesting comparisions. Anna reminded me of Dominique Francon from The Fountainhead--not at all because of her physical description or her way of thinking, but because of her effortless control over men. The narrator could have been a cross between an older Paul Verdayne and a less squicky but no less single-minded Humbert Humbert.

My final reaction is rather similar to that of my previous read. It's not one of my Must Reads, nor was it a waste of time. Don't kill yourself trying to find a copy of this book, but if you happen to come across it and you'd like to stray from the beaten path when everyone and their mother is reading The Help or The Passage, you might give it a whirl.


Diane said...

I remember reading this one several years back (could it be 8-10)?

I just found your blog; it's great! I'll be back!

Trisha said...

Reviews like this really inspire me to buy the book; I like mixed reviews because it leaves me to form my own opinion. The book does sound intriguing.

Kathy said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Diane--I'm sure it could have been 8-10 years since you read this book--it was published in 1991. It's probably not as "unheard of" as it seemed to me, as it was a NYT bestseller. (On the other hand, my husband has mentioned that it seems like every book becomes a NYT bestseller.) ;)

Trisha--I know how you feel--sometimes the wishy-washy reviews make me more curious about a book than those that shout I LOVED IT!! And there is the added benefit of probably exceeding low expectations.

Elle said...

Sometimes I go to a bookstore and have the impulse to purchase something that I know nothing of - it is a hit-or-miss method but the experience is always good. :) The premise is interesting (reminds me of Lolita), it looks like it's fast paced, so I don't think it's much of a risk. I'll keep a look out for this book!

KarenG said...

I followed you from Jayne's blog. Are you on Goodreads? I'd love to read more of your reviews there. This one actually sounds like my type, I'll add it to my to-read list. Thanks for the review!


Jayne said...

It is a bit worrying when books veer into VC Andrews territory - I used to love her books as a over-wrought teen, but now I am like oh the misery! I think this was a very well-balanced review - not sure if it is my cup of tea, but interesting all the same. Thanks!

Kathy said...

Elle--it was definitely fast-paced. I'm sure it helped that the book is small-ish and only has 218 pages, but I did reach a point where I couldn't put it down.

KarenG--so glad to have you here! I am not on Goodreads, so you'll just have to live with my blog reviews. I promise I'm not reading anything that I'm not writing about here (unless you count magazines, or picture book bedtime stories), so you're not missing anything. ;) And it wouldn't do me much good to try to write reviews of books I've previously read (unless I wrote something about them back when I read them, as with my "Reading in Retrospect" posts) because I can never remember enough about a book to have anything worth saying about them.

Jayne--yes, VC Andrews territory is definitely worrying! I read my first (and hopefully only) of hers late last year, and I still shudder at the memory.