My introduction to the work of this prolific American novelist was the five star rated “Blonde” (2000) which just missed out on my Top 10 Books Of The Year when I read it in 2020. This fictionalised account of the life of Marilyn Monroe may soon see a boost in sales as a film adaptation is currently in post-production and due for release by the end of 2022.
Nineteen years on from “Blonde” and after publishing another 26 novels in her own name (and a few under pseudonyms) came this literary thriller. Unwordly Abby is hit by a bus the day after her wedding to Willem. As she slowly recovers questions are asked if this was an accident. Abby is haunted by dreams from her past, when she was known as Miriam, and her parents had disappeared. Do these dream have any bearing on her encounter with the bus?
This is a quick read which I polished off in a couple of days. The whole thing has a nightmarish quality which clouds the characters and left me unsure of what is going on. Insight into proceedings tends to come and go and this had an almost soporific effect on this reader. I felt very tired whilst reading it and yet I wasn’t bored, it was caused by the hypnotic effect of the tale Oates weaves here. It is tantalising as the author pulls us in, moving the plot forward and then holds us back without revealing all the mysteries. The trouble with this is that despite this manipulation of us as readers it means that I felt it is not particularly memorable. I don’t think this is a book which will stay with me for long and this is a marked difference to how I felt about “Blonde”. What is undeniable is that Joyce Carol Oates is a writer unafraid of experimentation with style and genre which has sustained her well during a long career. Because of this diversity I can’t imagine that many readers would be blown away by her every publication. I feel that on this occasion I wasn’t totally on board but I am sure that I would find other books by her that would enthral me as much as “Blonde”.
Pursuit was published by Head Of Zeus in the UK in 2019.