At the conclusion of my last post I was wondering whether I was ready to plow ahead with the second installment of Robert Goddards’ “The Ways of the World”. I put off a final decision and read another Goddard book in the meantime. This was “Past Caring”, called “A masterly piece of storytelling” by the New York Times.
I was prepared for the intricate plot and large cast of characters, but in this book (which deals with the history of several British families and also British politics from the time of the Boer War to the 1970’s) as in “The Ways of the World”, several of the characters are real people. Winston Churchill, Asquith, and Lloyd George all appear. Although they only play supporting roles in the story, it makes me uncomfortable when historical personages are drafted in the service of a work of fiction, complete with detailed descriptions of imagined acts and statements.
What made this book less enjoyable than “The Ways of the World” was the main character, who narrates the story in the first person and is neither likable nor interesting. His one notable characteristic is an addictive personality, which may be the most irritating and unpleasant of all failings in a fictional character.
One minor fault that struck me – the cast of characters includes a femme fatale whose attractions are naturally too much for our susceptible hero, and the author feels obliged to do her justice in describing her. This leads him to describe what she’s wearing whenever she appears, which would be commendable if done well. Unfortunately, fashion writing has not lost a major talent in Robert Goddard. I invariably looked forward to finding out what this gorgeous creature was wearing only to be let down flat by learning that she was wearing white jeans and a yellow blouse, or white jeans and a blue blouse, or white jeans and – you get the idea.