Sunday, February 17, 2008

The End of Alice - A.M. Homes

Oh my. I can see why A.M Homes hates it when people say that they "love reading her books." I didn't love reading The End of Alice. It was disgusting, it was disturbing, and at times it was so graphic that I had to turn away, and at times I thought I might throw up. But it did draw me in, which made it all the more distrubing. It was a brave novel to write, and a difficult novel to read. In "difficult" I don't mean dense, big words, deep thoughts "difficult" but unsettling...it's difficult to continue to look at.

The End of Alice is told from the persective of a pedophile who has been in jail for 23 years. He starts a correspondence with a 19-year-old female who is beginning a 'relationship' with a 12 year old boy. We learn both of their stories, including what happened to Alice, the 12-year-old victim of "Chappy," the pedophile.

Looking over the list of the almost 350 books that I've read in the last 10 years, the only other books that made me as uncomfortable as The End of Alice was Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Nabokov's Lolita, the latter being the most obvious comparison, including narratives that are addressed at the reader. But compared to those two novels, The End of Alice just doesn't compare. Lolita draws the reader in through Nabokov's exquisitly beautiful prose and one is tempted to overlook the distrubing truth of the novel. Homes's story has none of that; it's in your face from beginning to end. While it's obviously just a different way of telling a slightly similar story, Lolita stands many heads above The End of Alice.

The End of Alice was a good book, but not "good" as in "enjoyable" due to the subject matter. I often find my reaction to a book changing after I finish reading it, either thinking it better or worse looking back. In this case, I thought it was better while I was reading it. Now, considering Lolita and it's many parallels, I think less of it. The End of Alice is certainly not a book I could read again - it has already gone in the "unwanted books" pile. But I would still recommend it to anyone who wants to be moved to react by the books that they read...if they can stomach it.

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