Thursday, April 21, 2005

Just read: Trapido's Brother of the More Famous Jack

Yesterday I breezed through Barbara Trapido's Whitbread-winning novel Brother of the More Famous Jack. Loved it! (Thanks to Jenny Davidson of Light Reading for turning me unto Trapido!)

This novel chronicles protagonist and narrator's Katherine's relationship to the Goldmans, a large Bohemian family whose patriarch was Katherine's philosophy professor. Katherine becomes friends with Jane, Prof. Goldman's wife, and lovers with their eldest son, Roger, who keeps his relationship with her a secret from his family. It was a less than ideal relationship, but Roger was Katherine's first love, which may help explain the depth of her otherwise inexplicable attraction to him. It certainly wasn't the sex:

Roger and I, let me confess, never altogether got it right in bed, though we enjoyed the comforting proximity of flesh on flesh. It was never much different from PE classes at school, I found, and left me similarly sweaty, exhausted, and sneaking glances at my watch to see how much longer it could possibly go on. Roger once caught me in the act of looking at my watch and took offense, being an arrogant and insecure young man. I had not yet realized that somebody as beautiful and clever as Roger could be as morbidly riddled with inadequacies as the next man. I was a rather hesitant person myself with a different collection of self-doubts. Thinking back, I realize that I had instinctively built my inadequacies into my public persona, in the hope that thereby I could bestow upon them the dignity of a presence. (p75)

When Roger unceremoniously dumps her, Katherine flees all the Goldmans, spending the next decade teaching English in Rome. Finally, tragedy pushes her back home to England, and prompts her to seek out the Goldmans once more. This time, she accepts their love and understanding, and finally, fully, comes into her own.

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