It has taken me some time to write this review. In part I have been busy and distracted but more than that I have struggled to pin down my thoughts on what is a remarkable novel that I found enjoyable, thought provoking and also frustrating. Reading around other people’s opinions, something which can be a blessing and a curse when planning a review, there is a clear difference of opinion and I can see why that is, some people fell in love and others just didn’t get it.
The writing is luxurious but maybe at times over done. The events are captivating but perhaps sometimes a little stretched. The characters are restless and trying to find their way, their lives, and that is where the beauty is for me. It isn’t easy by any means but then life isn’t easy and finding truth and meaning is harder still. Picking through each scene to understand the people who fill it is fascinating but they don’t resolve into neat boxes, they are too human to give easy answers, too real.
Amos Cobb is a handyman at the summer Vermont retreat of the wealthy Shaw family. He develops a relationship with young Aubrey that only goes deeper when Amos is almost killed in a horrific accident that though he somehow survives leaves him maimed and unpalatable to “civilised” eyes, outcast. From this point on they are joined, their lives take different courses but they cross at crucial moments. As men they are very different but they are both seeking peace, salvation from the pain they have been served.
The story moves from Vermont, to Mexico City, the Canadian mountains and Europe. It takes in Hitler as he plans mass slaughter, Greta Garbo in secluded retreat, wealthy industrialist Irenee Du Pont and a string of broken people all suffering in their different ways, all needing to be freed. Dennison Smith is a poet and that comes through both in the prose and the tale. The Eye of the Day feels like an extended poem rather than a novel, in that it is soul food.
Don’t pick this up for a quick read on the beach but do breathe it in and let it work on you. It is not about getting answers, it is about allowing questions to be asked and dwelling in the space that is created as a result. I think that I will return to this book in the future, it doesn’t feel like I have finished with it yet, nor it with me.