I wish I hadn’t read this book. I began reading Alison Lurie when she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 with Foreign Affairs and I have fond memories of reading the half dozen books still on my shelves, but Truth and Consequences is a disappointment which has soured my impression of her as an author to recommend.
Apart from their literary qualities, I read novels for the insight they bring. But a campus novel about a middle-aged bloke who’s lost his way professionally and whose marriage is on the rocks because his wife is tired of looking after him – where’s the insight in that?
Alan Mackenzie is an academic who’s hurt his back and tried everything to make it heal, but seems to be stuck with constant disabling pain. He has a loyal wife called Jane to fetch and carry for him, but she’s starting to get sick of it. She’s an administrator at the same university where she meets Henry, who fetches and carries for Delia, a narcissistic novelist who gets awful disabling migraines. Alan finds her very attractive, but so do other men.
The only mildly interesting aspect of what this rather lame scenario is whether or not Jane will shoot through with Henry, and/or whether or not Alan will shoot through with Delia. It’s about narcissistic characters in a narcissistic world, but the author has confined herself to depicting it, which makes me wonder if she herself is aware that it is mere navel-gazing. There is no interesting plot construction, no stunning prose that I might quote in a Sensational Snippet, no tackling of social or political issues and no moment of insight to make it worthwhile reading the book.
Truth and Consequences suggests to me that this is a case of a good novelist who has failed to grow and develop as a writer. The blurb at the Book Depository describes it as a satire, but you’d have to like your satires very limp indeed to be entertained by this one…
Author: Alison Lurie
Title: Truth and Consequences
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, 2005
Source: Kingston Library
Availability (if you want to bother)