Today I finished So Long At The Fair by Christina Schwarz (discussed here on the blog). It's the story of Jon, a thirtysomething man in Madison, WI trying to decide whether to leave Ginny, his high school sweetheart wife, for Freddi, a co-worker with whom he's been having an affair. At the same time, Schwarz weaves in another story of love and revenge, set in 1963, that involves Jon and Ginny's parents. The chapters change perspective, telling Jon, Ginny and Freddi's individual stories, interspersed with the 60s story, which is more vague and shadowy.
This book started out well. I liked the exploration of Jon's conflicted mind and the depiction of his flawed, but solid, marriage to Ginny. Schwarz has a keen eye for detail – both physical and emotional – and I really appreciated her sharp and eloquent prose. I also enjoyed that she told this story from multiple perspectives. I read in an interview with Schwarz that she was interested in exploring the shades of grey in this love triangle – the fact that no one was evil or perfect. In that way, she succeeded.
For me, however, the book deteriorated as it went along. I found the 1960s story hard to follow. She tried to built up tension and suspense by leaving details vague and unconfirmed until the end – and as a result I was more confused than intrigued. Also, it was unclear what the relationship was between the two storylines, other than that Jon and Ginny were the children of the people involved. Yes, both stories involved acts of physical aggression fueled by jealousy, but ultimately the stories really didn't connect.
I also found Jon's choice – and he does make a choice at the end – unconvincing and rushed. It seemed that in the space of a few hours, all of his conflict dissolved. This just didn't seem realistic to me, nor was it fair to the woman he passed up. Also, for me, the book ended about 10 pages too soon – I wanted one more scene, to confirm what happened next.
I've not read anything else by Christina Schwarz. I understand that her other books are very good, and based on her use of language alone, I'd be willing to give them a read.
Here are some more reviews of So Long At The Fair from: