An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful – J. David Simons

October 1, 2013 at 20:00 | Posted in books | 3 Comments
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simonscoverThis is the third novel by British writer J. David Simons, and is the story of Edward Strathairn, a writer born in Glasgow in the inter-war years who then spends time both in London and Japan. It is a reflection on the different cultures and attitudes across geography and time, as the book jumps between the evolving story of Edward’s life and the contemporary unfolding of the final months leading up to his death.

This switching between the present and the past is skilfully done, and the threads of the story weave together in a very satisfactory way. It is a kind of a love story, but one that explores two different types of love that Edward experiences – that for Macy, an American avant-garde artist he meets in London, and Sukimo, a Japanese hotel maid. The book also explores the various viewpoints and angles of a range of events and attitudes, and in a sense is a book about perception – how the same events can be viewed very differently depending on the background and context of the observer. The pivotal event is the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this traumatic event in world history is beautifully echoed throughout the book.

If that sounds rather daunting, then don’t be put off – it is a very readable book that is hard to put down. If I had a small criticism it would be that the character of Edward himself does not feel completely rounded, and there are moments in the book where his motivation does not seem to ring true; as if Simons needs to move the plot along but can’t weave events together quite convincingly enough.  This is really a minor point, however, which does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel. Definitely a recommended read.

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