Sophie by Guy Burt and Ready, Steady, Go! by Shawn Levy
By Guy Burt
In terms of suspense, Sophie is a leap
forward from Burt’s first novel, The Hole. It’s
tighter, more sensible and much creepier.
But Burt’s still quite young, and he hasn’t quite
got the balance between suspense and revelation quite down.
The hardest part
about reviewing this type of novel is that one doesn’t
want to spill too many of the beans. The novel is alternately
told in flashbacks and the first-person voices of Matthew Howard
and his sister Sophie, two years his senior. As the book opens,
the adult Mattie and Sophie are in a small house in the midst
of a thunderstorm. Only Sophie’s duct-taped to a chair.
Something happened in the past and we know Mattie’s been
seeing a psychiatrist — he wants answers. But about what,
we don’t know. Their childhoods
were characterized by an unusual degree of freedom due to a
reclusive mother who loses her third child to a mysterious crib
a largely absent, but highly-paid, father (who’s been
having affairs, it is revealed in a outburst from the mother
Overall, it’s a solid, well-constructed
novel, but one of the main problems that lets the air out of
the suspense is
revealed as a bad seed pretty much from the gate. Granted,
what made her so is the main mystery of the narrative, but
tipping his hand so early doesn’t help the book. Even
though Mattie seems
to be the bad guy in the present, we know that Sophie’s
driven him to whatever it is that he’s doing.
It’s important to remember
that Burt wrote Sophie when he was 19, and that can explain
some of the problems. But overall,
Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy
Fall of Swinging London
By Shawn Levy
(Broadway Books, $14.95)
Well, here it is: the real stories behind
the Austin Powers b.s. Levy also wrote the excellent Rat Pack
and he’s grown
as a chronicler of ’60s excess. Largely, the story of “Swinging
London” is the story of two bands: the Beatles and the Rolling
Stones. Liverpudlians and Londoners; natural-born pop tunesmiths
and wannabe bluesmen; excess and even greater excess. Ready,
Steady, Go uses the two bands to frame the rest of the art, music and fashion
world of the time (roughly 1964-1968) without slighting anyone.
The worlds of the two bands are the background for everything else.
Mostly, the other notable figures chronicled in the book are drawn
to those two poles.
One of the best things about the book is, Levy
avoids consideration of “what it all meant.” He’s
not concerned with sociological pontificating — he just wants to
a thorough portrait. While
there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interviews done specifically
for this book, it’s still good reporting. Levy has obviously
exhaustively researched his subject.
It’s also not as “fast” a
read as one might imagine. Levy serves up a truckload of information,
and it’s worth the time
it takes to wade through it. RSG is a genuinely witty and
amusing book; Levy doesn’t mock his subjects, but neither
does he fall into the trap of idolizing them. He tends to give
people as much
respect as they’re due.
For anyone curious about the time,
this is an excellent, concise history. Highly recommended.