Top positive review
Four books in one
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2017
This is a compelling story, perfectly executed. I read the book quickly and, at times, couldn't put it down. The narrative is twice framed, even if one of the frames is ambiguous. In the early-going, the context is set by a few newspaper clippings describing events pertaining to characters later revealed more fully. The rest of the book gradually answers the questions implicit in those events.
I am reluctant to touch on the plot at all because doing so could upset a reader's experience. Suffice it to say, the novel focuses on a portion of the lives of two Canadian sisters in the interwar period. A key driver is their gradually deteriorating financial circumstances.
Structurally, the novel is ambitious, and gives us the piecemeal composition of three different books, albeit sometimes obliquely. There is a mystery of sorts and the reveals occur only vaguely. The reader kind of realizes that he or she has known a crucial thing for some number of pages, and came to know it at exactly the appropriate time.
I haven't read the other books that were nominated for the Booker Prize in 2000 but that this won is not surprising. It is both complex and accessible, which is not an easy feat.