Thanks to Adrian, I guess I’ve joined a local book club (as if my reading list needed to be any longer!). Last week the club met to discuss The Golden Gate, a novel in verse (iambic tetrameter, for you poetry nerds out there… Bueller?).

First, my take on the verse stuff. Overall, of course, I can’t help admire the gutsy undertaking of writing a 300+ page book as a series of 14-line stanzas. Honestly I am not¬†very knowledgeable about poetry or verse, so I’m not sure I can say anything to intelligent about it. Sometimes it worked for me and sometimes it didn’t. Once I got sufficiently into it, it flowed pretty well.

The stanzas varied from distractingly sing-songy to being a nearly invisible structure that advanced the story. Sometimes the rhymes seemed forced and sometimes they glided smoothly along. On the whole, I’d rather re-read Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a novel in poetic prose, than read another novel in stanza form.

Now, to the story. I rather liked it. It concerns a group of friends and acquaintances, most in their mid/late 20’s, who are looking for love in California during the second Reagan administration. It was kind of fun to try to put myself in the frame of mind of that time period (I think I was a 9th grader in suburban Philadelphia when it takes place).

Jan kicks things off by secretly placing a personal ad on behalf of her ex, John, who’s a handsome but self-centered guy. He connects with Liz, whose religiously conflicted brother Ed begins an affair with John’s former college buddy Phil, who’s divorced and has a young son, but then… etc. The book lopes back and forth among these various stories and develops each of these characters to different degrees. Sudden events push and pull the characters together or apart. Some of them make surprising decisions that I couldn’t relate to in the slightest.

Bottom line: recommended if you think you can tolerate verse.

Next up: The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing is next for the book club. Luckily, it’s been gathering dust on my bookshelf so I finally have an excuse to read it!

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