Thursday, April 24, 2008

1987: A Summons To Memphis - Peter Taylor

This quiet tale of a southern family is largely a psychological novel. The actual and infrequent interactions between characters seem curiously muted and curtailed. Half of this short novel involves Philip's endless ruminating about two alarmed phone calls received in short succession by his two older spinster sisters concerning their elderly father's possible impending marriage.

Taylor's writing is beautiful -- clear and lucid, but he's repeating phrases and ideas, and the ending seems to strike a slightly false note, as if he became unsure of how to finish, or just grew weary. A Summons To Memphis seems so constricted with its own ponderous dignity that it makes Gilead, a Pulitzer winner that many complained was slow-moving, look like an action-thriller by comparison. As a novel, A Summons To Memphis seems to be straining to fit its form. It would've been better as a longish short story.


Wendy said...

Oh dear, I hope this is a short one. I was one of the readers that really disliked Gilead - I struggled to keep my eyes open while reading if this one makes Gilead look like action, I'm in trouble! *laughs*

Bybee said...

Yes, it's a short novel...somewhere around 200 pages.

Wendy said...

Oh good - I might be able to drag myself through it then :)