Very big apologies to author Mary Cavanagh. I thought I'd published this review of her The Crowded Bed ages ago. I knew I'd written it up, but it turns out I'd saved it in draft mode then neglected to actually publish it to the blog.
I think this must be the first time I've been quite this addled about a book review, at least as far as I know, so a quick run back through my published posts will be very high on my agenda of things to do PRONTO.
Here is my very belated review, with my sincerest apologies:
The Crowded Bed surprised me. It wasn't that I hadn't expected it to be a great read, because I'd peeked at enough other reviews by people I respect to know this was very much worth the time.
What I didn't expect was how complexly woven the writing actually was. I'm not one to throw out a lot of comparisons between modern writers and standards in the western canon, because that one thing can make me very wary of reviewers, but there were times I was reading this novel I thought the prose was so inwardly complex I thought of Woolf's novels. I know, that's a pretty high claim, but if it hadn't happened I wouldn't be claiming it. There were times I got so caught up in the prose style of The Crowded Bed, a style bordering on stream of consciousness, I forgot where I was or which author I was reading. I only knew that it was very, very good.
The plot of the book is shocking, in that way books written by people with anger verging on psychosis can be. In this case there's no doubt the anger is entirely justified. There is such a thing as unpardonable offenses. It's just the fact the resolution to the situation involves a threatened murder that gives pause.
Joe Fortune, the main male character in the book, has been in love with Anna for nearly his entire life. She is his idea of perfection, his soulmate, and he in turn is all of that to her, as well. However, Anna's controlling, manipulative father, Gordon, despises Joe, largely because he is Jewish and not good enough for his daughter. Never mind the pain this causes her. Gordon couldn't have cared less about that. There was almost nothing so low he wouldn't stoop to it in order to keep Joe away from Anna. Joe, in turn, nurses such a deep hatred toward Gordon he imagines he could murder him. Beneath it all there's even more betrayal than Joe could have imagined, and ultimately the question becomes not "how could he consider murder," but "how could he not."
Where it all leads I won't tell you. It's not a simple story, and doesn't have a simple resolution. The Crowded Bed is deeply psychological, and often quite dark. At times the prose verges on obscure, but it does so with a point. The mind is not simple territory, especially when such strong passions are at stake. Mary Cavanagh does a superb job venturing into the heart of all this turmoil, and she handles it all with an assured hand. This is a thoroughly impressive debut.
The Crowded Bed by Mary Cavanagh
Published: January 2007