My Reading Boots . . . (post 9/11)

English: Original description: "010917-N-...
English: Original description: “010917-N-7479T-509 Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001) — An aerial view shows only a small portion of the scene where North Tower of the World Trade Center (1 WTC) collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second book we discussed in the group this week (see previous post – ‘My Reading Boots . . . a kind of magic’) was The Submission by Amy Waldman. A novel examining the ‘political grief’ in the aftermath of 9/11, set two years on from that fateful day, with the story all about New York City’s  funding of a memorial to the victims.

The reading group was split in its opinions on this one. 3 of us, including me, thought it was ‘enjoyable’. The others were more dismissive.

One member of the group put the idea forward that Americans are too wrapped up in the whole saga of 9/11, and compared it to the British reaction to 7/7 (2005), observing that British reaction was more stoical, compared to the raw, emotional response of America.

Another group member observed that some of the characterisations were flawed. Sean Gallagher was described as ‘something straight out of Hollywood’, but this view was challenged by another group member. Personally, I saw Sean as a lost soul, wandering through his own timeline without purpose and latching onto the Memorial cause in a vain attempt to inject meaning into his life.

The Submission is an exceptionally well-constructed novel. The opening chapter is claustrophobic, and Waldman develops the ugliness of the period very well with a tightly woven narrative that creates a cylinder of despair. The cylinder is packed tight with dysfunctional individuals who flounder in the face of right and wrong.

Waldman utilises metaphor and simile with a deft touch and to deliver astonishing insights. Words leap from the page with abandon – the language drips like freshly squeezed orange juice onto an over-cooked pancake. It’s mesmerizing.

Overall, Waldman’s novel about 9/11 has a reflective tone that flows well and explores several psychological viewpoints. There is a strong claustrophobic element and the book explores, in-depth, the personal politics of compromise and the complexity of human experience. Recommended.

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