The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Sue Miller's While I Was Gone is one of my favourite books so I was looking forward eagerly to The Senator's Wife. It has many of her trademarks - acute observation of detail, an insistence on tackling a really difficult subject, and a naively transgressive young female protagonist; but the first half of the book is very slow.
I had difficulty with the narrative technique. There's too much tell and not enough show; some of the author's insights are too clearly explained to the reader, leaving too little to be worked out.
The real power of this book comes right at the end, however; and it's worth the wait. I found the climax so painful and disturbing that I had to stop reading, put the book away and steel myself for what I knew was coming.
This is a densely written novel about youth and age, about people behaving in way that they do not fully understand, about the compromises that we make and the lies we tell ourselves to cover them up. It may not be Sue Miller at her best but it's still an absorbing read with an extremely powerful payoff.