“Bauer captures the style and language of the period with gleeful dexterity… Exquisite.”
This is an epistolatory novel, and a beautiful one at that. The fact that it’s written in letters and that these letters employ such beautiful language is its saving grace and the reason I want to give it 3 stars out of 5. It is delightful for the most part, but I keep thinking of what I would like the ending to be, and perhaps that is not fair at all. It is what it is.
Frances and Bernard are two writers who meet at an artist’s colony and engage in a conversation there and continue talking about God and art in letters. They sure talk a lot of religion with a fervor that is not quite up my alley. While I understood Bernard for the most part, I found Frances (and myself for not understanding her) stupid when she talks about God. She says that wanting to find God is ludicrous. I say, why believe in something you can’t find? I don’t believe in a God, but I understand faith, and and yet I think I cannot really comprehend what Frances says about God. She’s very wise when she talks of there being the church and then there being the Church, I understand her emphasis on the existence of suffering, I understood her more when her faith wavered, but I still did not understand what exactly God was for her, and perhaps I really just cannot because I do not understand her religion, and that’s okay, I think, although I really do not like not understanding things.
Bernard has depression and the way that manifests makes me want to cry for him. I love him more than a little for carrying on. I also loved how Bernard loved Frances. He says, “My love for you is real. When I think of you going about your life innocently and in full freedom and then being conscripted into my madness, I want to commit myself to an institution forever. How can I ever atone for having distorted you into an allegory? My madness is also real, but it is not as real as my love for you.” And I also loved how Frances did love him while being afraid that she’ll wake up one day and he’ll disappear. And yet I hated Frances when she broke it off with him. And I hated Bernard more than I hated Frances for breaking it off with him when he married Susan.
I still do not know how to feel about the ending, and that is what keeps me from loving this otherwise delightful book. Perhaps Bernard and Frances were too emotionally taxing for each other. Perhaps that is why they were not meant to be. But the Romantic in me disagrees. Perhaps I need to re-read it in order to feel that it got the ending it deserved, which like I said, is unfair because I shouldn’t be thinking of a book that wasn’t written. I should be thinking of the book that was written. Fair ending or not, I have to accept it for what it is.
Added 3rd August 2016