The Power of Stadium-Rock Titles

Sometimes I read a review just because of the book’s title. Such a case was this review of Dara Horn’s novel The World to Come. I’d heard nothing about the book, but with a title like that there has to be something to interest me, right? And it seems there may be. First paragraph of the review:

There are times when The World to Come feels less like a novel and more like one of those plaques on the sides of deep-space probes that are supposed to summarise Humanity. It’s all here: Vietnam, Chernobyl, Stalin, quiz shows, folklore, art and – without wanting to give the game away – eternity.

Hmm. Last paragraph:

I said the book was ambitious, but its ambition is not purely literary. It’s as though Horn is trying to tell you everything she knows and to see if it all adds up. It’s beguilingly youthful and sprightly, clever but not smart, and doesn’t have one ironic or postmodern moment in it. It’s a long time since I’ve read a book that felt so meant. This means it’s impossible to dislike, but also hard to keep up with. Towards the end, just when I was beginning to tire of it, just when all the stories were heading towards their resolution, Horn does something so bold and so pure that to describe it would spoil it. All I can say is that you have to read it.

Hmmmmmm. So, we turn to Google, which brings up this blog post which does and doesn’t predict the sort of reviews the book is going to get, and includes this:

I am making every attempt to be fair to The World to Come, and its author, by repeating at various points in this review that Dara Horn has lots of talent, has a marvellous grasp of the history, culture, and religion of the Jewish people, and uses all these to good effect. But you see, what you have here, when push comes to shove, is a mixture of various genres; and none of them done particularly well, because they all trip over each other.

For a start we have traces of a thriller or a crime novel. The book begins, as noted earlier, with the theft of a painting, and the complications resulting therefrom. We also have a good old-fashioned family saga, of the kind much beloved by heavy library users in the UK, and which comes in both highbrow (Elizabeth Jane Howard) and lowbrow (Josephine Cox) versions. And the final chapter of The World To Come is pure fantasy.

Sounds like a trip to Amazon might be in order. Don’t suppose anyone’s actually read it?


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