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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Body of Jonah Boyd by David Leavitt 
12th-Apr-2006 11:21 pm
Some things improve with age, and apparently writer David Leavitt is among them. (Why did I think Leavitt was an expat? The author bio says he lives in Gainesville, Florida. Is that a new development?)

Leavitt, David. The Body of Jonah Boyd. New York: Bloomsbury, 2004.
Summary: Secretary to Dr. Ernest Wright Judith "Denny" Denham is, during one fateful Thanksgiving in 1969 at the Wright House, unknowing witness to events that would reverbrate nearly thirty years later. Nancy Wright's friend Anna, eager to get even with her husband, the novelist Jonah Boyd, entrusts his manuscript after he mistakenly leaves it behind to the youngest son Ben Wright. As an adult, Ben publishes the novel of the now deceased Boyd as his own, and it launches his literary career and allows him to reclaim his family's home. After learning his secret, Denny marries Ben.
Comments: As a general rule, I'm not a fan of domestic white-people dramas, and whatever I thought this novel was going to be, it wasn't what I expected. Still, I must give Leavitt his props--he has written a MAGNIFICENT novel. Though it begins with almost agonizing slowness with belabored descriptions of the Wright House that only a realtor could love, the story slowly but surely builds momentum until it rockets to its end with truly meteoric power. Everything comes together with seeming effortlessness; nothing is unnecessary. I was particularly astonished by how well Leavitt inhabits the voice of a (heterosexual) woman. That's new and improved. He's never done women's literature (and I don't mean chick lit) before. If I didn't know better, I would've assumed that this novel was written by a woman...even though there are clever acrobatics regarding authorship at the end to monkey about with if the reader is so inclined. Just. WOW. Though there is something of the disaffected young homosexual of Leavitt's earlier novels in Ben, this masterpiece is the production of a mature writer who, at last, knows exactly what he's doing.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition
Rating: 8.5/10 - The best David Leavitt novel that I've read thus far. Deserves--and is bound to attract (since it is not gay fiction)--a very wide audience, especially among mainstream women readers.
28th-Apr-2006 11:07 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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