Friday, 2 August 2013

Light Years by James Salter

"Life divides itself with scars like the rings contained within a tree. How close the early ones seem, time compacts them, twenty years become indistinguishable, one from another."

Reading this in snippets on the bus to and from work was probably not the best way, in hindsight, to enjoy it. Yet, this fragmented approach did not entirely detract from what is an amazing book. In truth, I had to re-read aspects of it - I found the names a little bit of a distraction - Viri, Nedra, Franca etc.
So what makes this book amazing? It is the dreamlike snapshots that so perfectly capture the way we remember the passing days of our lives. The inappropriate thoughts that pepper our subconscious, the biased perspectives of our own memory - these characters envelop these notions and make them their own.

Life is not all sunshine and roses, Salter seems to draw out the heights of ecstasy and the lows of agony in an almost tangible fashion. The fear of ageing is really at the heart of this novel and no where is that more apparent when Franca becomes "stricken by a young man" and the passing of time becomes signposted to Viri. Indeed, the end of the novel draws the curtain on life itself and yet retains a slightly optimistic note by virtue of the beauty of the writing and the sense that the lives of the characters have been rich in tone, colour and action.

While some consider this a masterwork, I still have to say I preferred A Sport And A Pastime, but I think that has more to do with the subject matter. The deterioration of marriages and the passing of youth are not the most upbeat of subjects after all.

5 out of 5, strange names, luscious prose, light years pass like minutes.

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