Monday, January 23, 2012

book review: Falconer by John Cheever


"He wanted to cry and howl. he was among the living dead. There were no words, no living words, to suit this grief, this cleavage. he was primordial man confronted with romantic love. His eyes began to water as the last of the visitors, the last shoe, disappeared."

This is not a particularly easy story to read. The tale of a man who kills his brother, is addicted to drugs and ends up in prison is not perhaps the ideal way to create a scenario and character that will lead to reader's hearts. But you find yourself on the side of Farragut despite all these things.

He describes how and why he became addicted to drugs - fed them during the war and then existence in a society that seems to be drugging the population in some form or other - and you find yourself half agreeing with him. Ironically it's prison that managed to make him clean after expensive clinics and therapists have failed to do the job.

There is also a well developed reveal of the murder with it clear that the relationship between the brothers is a strained one and the murder victim did to a degree ask for some sort of confrontation. That doesn't excuse the killing but it does allow you to side with Farragut when he describes it as exaggerated and an accident.

But that is all in the past and this story starts with the main character entering prison. The vivid description of the prison, the misery of confinement and the struggles to cope with the routine are all written brilliantly. As Farragut slips into a battle to keep his sanity and finds love in the arms of a prisoner who manages to escape the future looks bleak. His wife displays little chance of providing love and most of those prisoners and guards around him are struggling with their own emotional problems.

A riot at another prison ushers in a period of tension that provides Farragut with a chance to place himself in the heart of the community in F wing. He spends most of his time wandering through the memories of the past. Perhaps it is that process which encourages the sort of introspection that can lead to a life being turned around. Just as he breaks his dependence on drugs and methadone it is a more profound break with himself that prison provides.

Sure this is dark, sometimes brutal in its description of the world of the incarcerated and it has the power to shock. But what I will remember is the power of the writing, being taken on a journey that delivered from start to finish and an introduction to a writer I intend to read much more of.

2 comments:

stujallen said...

this is a guy I want to try at some point simon ,great review and well suit for a trip to us ,all the best stu

John Hahae said...


Manuel Neuer

Very good love it!