Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review - The Son

The Son – Philipp Meyer

I was looking for a Western and happened to spot this novel on the Audible recommendations list. The fact that it was narrated by Will Patton as well as two other actors furthered my interest. I had never listened to an audible book by more than one narrator before.

The Blurb:

Philipp Meyer, the acclaimed author of American Rust, returns with The Son: an epic of the American West and a multigenerational saga of power, blood, land, and oil that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the to the oil booms of the 20th century.

Harrowing, panoramic, and deeply evocative, The Son is a fully realized masterwork in the greatest tradition of the American canon - an unforgettable novel that combines the narrative prowess of Larry McMurtry with the knife-edge sharpness of Cormac McCarthy.
The Son is divided up into three points of view (each actor logically reading from one character). What disappointed me was that the three characters all took place in slightly different time periods. I think I was expecting an audible book/play hybrid where the characters would be voiced by different actors but interact.

However, I will not mark the book down due to my expectations. What I will mark it down for is the quality of the points of view. The main point of view is from the Eli the Colonel and tells of his capture by Indians and his subsequent survival. For a long period of the book this is by far and away the superior narrative when compared to the other sections.

I say for long periods of the book because when Eli leaves the Indians his story loses its momentum. It is still interesting but not as intense.

The Colonel is a rigid character. He sees things from a black and white viewpoint and is uncompromising in his beliefs. Inevitably, he comes to acknowledge the Indian way of life and even respect them. The transition is superbly handled to the point neither Eli nor the reader knows it is happening.

The second character is his son Peter, who could not be more different from his father. Peter’s narration is told in the form of diary entries which could not be more tepid. He is an insular man not cut out for the bold and aggressive role that is required to him. Instead, what the reader gets is a depressive, limp specimen with nothing to endear the reader to.

His narration is a little repetitive and at times I just wished he would grow a backbone. Instead, his story seems to just peter out.

Finally there is Eli’s Great Granddaughter Jeannie, who through luck rather than tenacity becomes an oil tycoon. Again, there is nothing endearing about her character and at times I had to really force myself to concentrate on her sections.

Towards the very end, Philipp Meyer adds another POV character. This felt unnecessary and did not add much to the plot.

It is a shame as I really wanted to like this book. I kept hoping the stories would come together somehow but they never did. The ending was very disappointing with the chapters becoming increasingly shorter as if Phillip Meyer himself wanted the book to end and wanted to tie everything up.

Overall, I am a little bit mystified by the many 5* reviews the book has received. The 3* reviews sum up my feelings fairly accurately.  I could have done with a lot more of Eli with the Comanche Indians and with the stories of Peter and Jeannie cut out all together.

My rating 6.5