Summerland: A Novel
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Richard sits on the shores of Sydney Harbour, a hollowed out man remembering a lost paradise as he recounts the years he shared with his best friend, the charismatic heir Hugh Bowman. Gliding through a life of endless luxury and ease, they formed a charmed quartet with their childhood sweethearts, Helen and Pup.
As adults they married and continued their tradition of summer holidays at Palm Beach, giving every appearance of leading charmed and immaculate lives. Like those beautiful people in magazines, their skin was unblemished, their smiles dazzling, the lighting just so. But as Richard confronts his memories what seemed so idyllic is revealed as a sinister drama of secrets, lies and betrayals.
A masterful and compelling dissection of friendship, morality and society from a startling new talent.
Rezension: It takes a bold writer to invoke The Great Gatsby on page 3 of your first novel. Malcolm Knox does just that. When his protagonists, a group of young marrieds, go out to dinner, they reserve their table under "Mr. Gatsby and group." There's no question which of the diners is the star: that would be Hugh Bowman, "the Mackie Agribusiness heir," who possesses charm, beauty, and such wealth that he never need think about it, except to devise ways of spending it. As seen through the eyes of the narrator, Richard (Nick Carraway to this antipodean Gatsby), Hugh is a fascinating study in entitlement. "It was only deserving," Richard notes, "that he should overshadow me at my own wedding."
The latter statement turns out to be something of a premonition. Richard marries Pup, a financial consultant and frustrated novelist, and Hugh marries the aptly named Helen, a heartbreaking beauty. But though they lead elegant lives in the tonier reaches of Sydney, a secret eats away at the foursome: Hugh has never gotten over a childhood fling with Pup. As the story progresses, Richard reveals how their life together has been a mass of lies.
Summerland is a refreshingly ambitious novel, and a cleverly written one: Knox's people tumble into tragedy as if in slow motion. A little more information about their lives might, however, be appreciated. Richard admonishes, "You might want me to tell you how we decorated our houses, what labels and fabrics we allowed next our skin, where we ate.... Perhaps if we had cut each other up on the moon, or in Eritrea, it would be important for me to bring you some vivid impression. But the material lives of the rich are of little consequence." For the rest of us, though, the world of upper-crust Sydney might as well be the moon; it is the job of the narrator to tell us exactly these things. After all, it was Fitzgerald himself who wrote, "The very rich are different from you and me." --Claire Dederer
Titel: Summerland: A Novel
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