bookpost: The Chimney-sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine

I found this in the English section of a Helsinki used bookshop.

So basically an author dies and his daughters grieve terribly because he was such a great father, but the widow feels liberated because he was a loveless, sometimes cruel husband. One of the daughters starts to write a memoir and discovers that her father was not who he claimed to be, and the novel is, as far as plot goes, about the unraveling of who he really was and why he changed his identity. But on another level, it is much more about this thing that was buried in the author's psyche, and how it affected him, his writing, his relationships, and then his daughters and wife both in his lifetime and after his death.

As a mystery, it's dreadful. I always felt three steps ahead of the characters in figuring stuff out, and I was disappointed that there wasn't more to discover. The big denouement is obvious well before it is exposed.

Yet the novel is still compelling, largely because of the intersection between the psychological and the literary aspects. If I think about it, the predictability of the novel's outcome made the analysis of the characters more enjoyable because we get a privileged view into the psyche of the central character denied to the other characters. In addition, I found the questions raised about the relationship between the writer and his works interesting, even if I don't entirely agree with the book's premise.

I'm interested to read something else by Vine, maybe Asta's Book.

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