Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Arcadia by Jim Crace


"In just a few years - first with Continent (hailed by John Hawkes as "Stunning, powerful and original") and then The Gift of Stones (Frank Kermode called it "a tour de force" and its author "a virtuoso") - Jim Crace has shown himself to be one of the most resourceful and distinctive novelists in the English language today. Now, with Arcadia, he has written a novel of extraordinary scope and texture, creating a wholly original and compelling vision of modern life - a world both foreign and very similar to that which we have inherited and made our own. At the center of Arcadia stands Victor, a solitary man who has risen by his own hard efforts from the direst circumstances to a position of immense wealth and undeniable influence. ("No wonder Victor never fell in love," we are told. "A childhood like the one he had would make ice cubes of us all. He lived on mother's milk till he was six, and then thrived on charity and trade!") It is now the occasion of Victor's eightieth birthday, and in celebration, his right-hand man has prepared something special: a country feast in the heart of the metropolis, twenty-seven stories above the marketplace where Victor began to reap his fortune. But Victor himself is making plans of his own to leave his mark upon the city, an imprint as indelible and disruptive as the one left on him... But if Arcadia is the story of Victor it is also that of Rook, his aptly named assistant, a man not above cutting a few inside deals for himself... Anna, Victor's efficient, protective secretary who will become Rook's eager lover... Joseph, a young man from the country with rough ambitions of his own... a dapper, celebrated architect who figures in Victor's plans... people from Victor's almost Dickensian childhood... and, most important for all of them, the marketplace called the Soap Market, which binds them all to one another... And so the stage is set for Arcadia, a dream of those who live in great cities."

My thoughts: At first, I wasn't sure if I would like this book. Victor wasn't a likable character, and following Rook into the city wasn't that interesting. By the third chapter, however, I was hooked on Victor's story and how his childhood in the Soap Market influenced him throughout his life. I also liked the themes of city vs. country, the market, fire, and food that played throughout the book.

Date finished: 1/9/2006
Book No.: 2
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2007
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 068912158X
ISBN-13: 978-0689121586
Publisher: Scribner
No. of pages: 320
Binding: Hardcover

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