December 14, 2006
I've read a number of Updike's books and I can honestly say this is the worst I've read. This has to be one of the worst books I've ever read, period. It's only made worse by the author's stellar track record otherwise.
For a story that's supposed to be a retelling of "Tristan and Isolde"--a precursor to "Romeo and Juliet"--this book is as romantic as a night at a strip club and as tragic as wearing two different socks. From my count Isabel fathers 5 children whose father is most likely NOT Tristao. That tells you all you need to know about the romance. As for the tragedy, both characters had less personality than a Brazil nut, so why should I care? By page 200 I'd have killed one of them myself if it meant an end to this horrible book.
Here's a summary of the plot: Tristao is black. Isabel is white. They meet on a beach in
That's what the story is, more or less. You talk about the societal issues and allegories and whatnot, but what I described above is the actual content of the story. It's not about love; it's about SEX. These two people are faithful to each other only until someone else walks by. It's not tragic, unless you think (like I do) how much better off these two would have been never having met. The plot itself becomes ridiculous and the last 50 pages tedious.
I am actually feeling in quite a funk now as I write this. This book surpasses disappointment to a level of utter revulsion. You can say I'm a prude or a simpleton, that I don't GET it, in which case we'll have to agree to disagree. I have no use for this book and I deeply regret wasting time to read about two people for whom I have nothing but contempt. If this is any kind of portrait of the human spirit...it's better not to contemplate that thought.