Ah, dear, dear Mr. David Lodge, should you read this blog post, know that you have become on of my favourite authors, although it did not start under the best circumstances. I first heard -and read -of David Lodge with The Art of Fiction (1992). It was actually the very first book on the reading list during my first year in college. I was quite enthusiastic at the time, but having to read it three times in limited time,it soon turned out to be a burden more than a pleasure.
Home Truths has yet hardly anything to do with The Art of Fiction. Adapted from the play of the same title, the 130-odd-page novel, reads well. Very well and very quickly. Once in hands, you won’t put this book down.
The fact that it was originally a play is quite obvious. One location, four characters, essentially dialogues – all the ingredients are there. And the recipe works perfectly fine; there are no down times, the lines short, punchy and dynamic. So far, so good.
Lodge’s English is what I like best about his work. It’s elaborated, smart and yet smooth and reads quite well. This point alone makes of Mr. Lodge one of the best contemporary English writers. The pleasure is multiplied his accurate and fascinating depiction of the English society. It is neither sardonic, nor patronising. It describes how people are in the barest ways to the readers’ utmost pleasure.
The four characters seem all utterly real and there is so much to write about them. My attention fell on Fanny Tarrant, the journalist behind what troubles our three other characters. While she does appear like an overly stereotyped strong businesswoman, ruthless, shrewd and adamant, the last “act” of the novel reveals her under a complete different light. This, of course, makes her a lot more three-dimensional and gives infinitely more depth.
When Tarrant is first described, I immediately associated her to Harry Potter’s cunning reporter Rita Skeeter. Their resemblance is so striking, physically and psychologically that they could almost be the same persona, with the only difference that Skeeter is somewhat older than Tarrant. I could not help but wonder what anyone would: who inspired whom? Well it is actually trickier to answer than I thought for both books were published around the same time. Lodge’s novel in 1999 while Skeeter appeared in 2001, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Chance are Tarrant is the original and Skeeter the copy, but since the Harry Potter series started before, I cannot be too assertive.
All in all, a fantastic novel and an excellent book that announces a nice three-day weekend.