Monday, January 4, 2010

Of Friends and Unfettered Thought.

THE FIVE GRADUATE STUDENTS live in an old home, far from everything including the village created to house the servants back in the old days. The students spend their days studying literature at Trinity College, reading, conversing, restoring the home and enjoying each others' company. They lead examined lives, pondering meanings in books and life, and they shun Capitalism in all its forms.

Everything is grand until one of them is murdered.

Tana French, author of The Likeness, delivers an implausible plot twist - an undercover detective, who happens to be the victim's mirror image, takes the victim's place in the house. We are expected to believe that the detective sufficiently learns enough about the victim to imitate her speech, actions and thoughts. And then the detective slides right into the victim's life, fooling everyone around her.

It's a stretch, for sure. And French spends the first 150 pages of the novel explaining the characters' history so that we buy the premise. The detective is rather brilliant and oddly similar to the victim, French writes.

Fortunately, French deftly builds these characters (the students, locals and law enforcement), giving them personalities and back stories. They are an intriguing group, weaved together expertly. There is also background on the Irish people, as well as the country and its difficult relationship with the British. The book is more than a police procedural, which it seemed like it would be in the beginning. The book is about why people do what they do.

I came to admire the students and their ability to live independently (albeit as a group). Their existences revolved around unfettered thought rather than the mundane musings of everyday life. They discussed and debated ideas, using literature as the support for their arguments. While the rest of the world is blogging and twittering, these students basked in conversation. They complemented each other, it seems, creating one whole.

I wish I had as much time to read as they do, and more friends to discuss literature with.

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