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The Sunday

It seems to have taken me several days to finish this one – strange, given that it’s a fairly short novel and a re-read. I’d managed to forget the event that the whole novel leads up to and then reveals, but then discovered that…well, it was pretty forgettable. As well as out-of-character, gratuitous and rather anticlimactic. Had the scene been longer and more detailed, perhaps I’d have gotten more out of it than a faint sense of dissatisfaction.


Polyhymnia O’Keefe, a brilliant seventeen year old staying alone in Athens and being romanced by a wealthy boy a few years her senior, reflects back on the previous year and her intense friendship with the enigmatic, intelligent Maximiliana, and Max’s lover Ursula. Something happened to shatter Polly’s trust in Max and, though L’Engle throws a few red herrings about, it’s not hard to guess what it was. In addition, I couldn’t help feeling that Polly overreacted hideously and that she needed to gain some perspective and stop being such a brat. Which doesn’t excuse Max’s actions, just that her motivations are glossed over so much that she seems like a caricature in that scene and it’s hard to identify the out-of-control creature who raves drunkenly and tries ineptly to make a pass at her friend and daughter-figure, with the wise, benevolent women carrying around more than her fair share of dark secrets but refusing to be weighed down by them.


Apparently this is part of a series, and I’ve been told by friends that it’s the weakest book in the O’Keefe saga. I’d certainly like to read more – the family intrigues me and, despite the flaws she shows in this book, I like Polly as a central character. I’ve currently got a long list of books to get thorough, however, including Ann Patchett’s The Magician’s Assistant which is apparently so good that my girlfriend refused to part with it until she had bought another copy. Please bear in mind that we live in the same house. Then I want to finish Winifred Holtby’s The Crowded Streets, read Lessing’s The Golden Notebook and re-read Calvino’s On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, which I first read in Japan four years ago and has stayed with me ever since as a utterly brilliant novel.

But today it is a hot, sunny day, and I have gardening to do.