Tuesday, February 4, 2014

& Sons

Title: & Sons
Author:  David Gilbert
Publication Information:  Random House. 2013. 448 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book arrived as an autographed hardcover edition! Thank you GoodReads!

Favorite Quote:  "We do die, some sooner than others, and we should try our best to say the things that might mean something before that day does arrive."

& Sons begins with a funeral. Philip Topping's father Charles has died. The buzz at the funeral is the fact that one of Charles' oldest friends, the reclusive author Andrew Newbold Dyer, is to give the eulogy. He attempts to do, but unsuccessfully so.

From there, the book moves both forward and backwards. The book looks back, in particular at the friendship between Charles Topping and Dyers. What starts as a school boy friendship shifts and changes over the years; yet, it stands the test of time and lasts until Charles' death. Or does it? It carries over into the next generation with their sons. Or does it?

Moving forward after the funeral, Dyer attempts to gather his three sons together in reconciliation to gather the moments of his life. Through an odd set of circumstances, Philip Topping ends up living in the Dyer household. The next week brings out the stories and long-held feelings of these characters towards each other.

There is a lot going on in this book. There is the somewhat mysterious character of A N Dyer. There is his relationship with his three sons and their mothers. There is the relationship between the brothers. There is the long standing friendship between Charles Topping and A N Dyer. There is the character of Philip Topping (Charles' son) and his complicated relationship with his family and with the Dyer family. There is the private boarding school that plays a large role in the lives of many of the characters. There is A N Dyer's book Ampersand which becomes yet another character in the book. In other words, there is a lot going on.

What complicates matters further is the choice of narrator. Philip Topping tells the story. Some situations in which he is involved are told in the first person. Other situations are described through him; yet, he was not there and could not have had knowledge. Also, his role as narrator confuses me as to the main focus of the book - is it the relationship between Dyer and these young men or is it the impact on these young men of the history of Dyer and Charles' friendship?

The symbolism of the ampersand recurs several times in the books. It is the name of Dyer's most famous book. His initial spell "AND". The story is one of relationships - many relationships between once character and another.

The ending took me by surprise and leaves a lot of open questions. Having read it, I am not quite sure what to make of this book. Not quite sure where it was going. Not quite sure that I really want to know.

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