An older man makes his last move, from a capital city (not named, but Melbourne) to a small town on the border, and ponders. This short book is a report of his thoughts; reflections on light and mental images, with lots of references to coloured glass, being Catholic, and horse racing. There is little emotion, some coherence and no actual plot, so it was just some quality in the writing that kept me going.
There’s a lot to love about this book. In 1922 a Russian aristocrat is sentenced to house arrest in a luxurious hotel, spending the next thirty or so years of his country’s upheaval, confined to the hotel with a cast of quirky, loveable, dastardly, glamourous, powerful, and heart-warming characters. There are some beautiful, funny, and moving scenes as the well-travelled young man finds new worlds opened to him, while he cannot leave the hotel, though I found it surprisingly slow to get through, unlike The Rules of Civility.
It’s always a bit disappointing when you don’t enjoy the latest novel as much as earlier ones. The Sparsholt Affair begins in 1940s’ Oxford, then jumps forward in blocks of time, and changes perspective, until it gets to the current day. I was certainly sorry to leave Oxford behind, a favourite setting of mine, and I don’t think my interest was wholly recaptured. It reminded me a little of The Heart’s Invisible Furies, as it follows the lives of gay men across this period of history, but without the depth of understanding, and attachment, that comes from having one protagonist. It’s about complicated relationships, art, London, and secrets. I didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it.
I was more than half way through, when I realised I really didn’t like Lolita. A grown man’s destructive obsession with a young girl, leading them down a terrible path, makes for a disturbing read. The language is beautiful, but it is so dark and creepy that I couldn’t wait for it to be over.