December 25, 2008

Conceit, by Mary Novik

I found this book totally at random. I was writing the last post, and I googled "conceit novel", because I wasn't sure if the phrase "conceit of a novel" was negative. I didn't find my answer (although Kelly told me later that it's not negative), but I did find a whole bunch of hits for this book, so I requested it from the library. 

It's a fairly quick read; I covered 142 pages in the first night, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Conceit takes place in 17th century London, and is about poet John Donne, his wife Ann, who died while giving birth to their twelfth child, and one of their children, Pegge. It starts off with the Great Fire of London in 1666, jumps back to the past, takes turns being told by Pegge, John Donne, and the ghost of Ann (creepy!) for the bulk of the book, then ends up back at the fire and its aftermath, with Pegge and her husband sharing the story-telling. 

All the book reviews I looked at seemed to like it a lot, calling it a lush portrayal, immersed in the time period, etc. I would agree until I got to the last part, back in 1666, when Donne is long dead and Pegge is long married. She seems to have gone nuts, without much explanation. Her actions perplexed and annoyed me. And when they have the big reveal at the end, which the book jacket obliquely refers to as "push(ing)the limits of daughterly behaviour", I was just I guess what I'm saying (sloppily, I know) is that I could have done without the last 1/4 of the novel.

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