28 January 2012

Giant's Bread - book review

Agatha Christie, one of my favorite authors, wrote 6 novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott at the beginning of her writing career. 'Giant's Bread' is one of these six novels.

Its hard to describe how I feel after reading it. It is a curious blend of a children's book, a love story, a tragedy, the story of the rise of a musical genius. It is narrated in the backdrop of the World war yet is primarily about a young man who has the streak of musical genius but doesn't know it. The analogy of his discovering his genius and a man discovering religious epiphany is interesting. The author seemed very influenced by the contemporary music and used it well to involve the three characters of Sebastian, Vernon and Jane.

All the characters are well-etched and original. The novel may have been a success in its time but in my view it was stretched too thin by the various twists and turns. While the twists pack an element of surprise and help take the story further, they also interrupt the unraveling of the characters.

Nell's character is by far the most understandable though not necessarily likeable. I felt that the character of Joe had a lot of promise, but she somehow lost steam and almost disappeared toward the end. The male protagonist is the least fathomable character by far. I never did understand how or why he fell for Nell. It is hard to conclude if any of his four dreams reach fruition or not. The character of Jane is the most lucid yet tragic. Sebastian stands firm and stolid through the ups and downs of his friends' lives. If only everyone were as certain and prosaic as him, life wouldn't be so difficult!

All in all, a very decent attempt at a tragic love story by Mary Westmacott. However, I feel it was written at the very beginning of her career as it lacks her usual finesse in plot construction and treatment. Despite packing a lot of ingredients, the dish ended up a trifle bland.



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