WORD SEARCH with Adair Jones

Review: Lovesong by Alex Miller

Posted in adultery, review by Adair Jones on November 12, 2009

Lovesong

Alex Miller’s beautiful Lovesong is anything but a simple love story.  Ken, a retired novelist returns home from an extended stay in Venice to find his neighborhood changed.  There is a new pastry shop run by Sabiha, a lovely woman with an air of sorrow.  Ken befriends her husband, John, and listens as John tells their story.

In Paris many years earlier, John took a wrong train and then was caught in a sudden rainstorm.  Taking shelter in a nearby café, he met Sabiha, a chance encounter that would change the course of their lives.  They marry, run the café, live happily enough.  However, John always intended to return to Australia and resume his career as a teacher.  Sabiha, feeling that once she moved to Australia she would never leave, refused to go until she was able to take her child to Tunisia to meet her father.  However, the two remain childless—and in limbo.  As time passes, John’s regret over his failed plans is matched in intensity by Sabiha’s terror of aging.  When she learns her father is dying, the idea that she might die childless becomes unbearable.

This personal crisis is set in the larger complex situation of two people from different cultures making a life together in a third.  There is no question that John and Sabiha love each other; nonetheless, they are at an impasse that could destroy their marriage.  There is an elegiac note throughout Lovesong. As usual, Miller’s language is deceptively spare, slowly building in emotional power.  The climax, while not unexpected, is deeply moving.

As Ken listens to John tell their story, he finds himself irresistibly drawn to its narrative possibilities.  Lovesong becomes more than a love story; it becomes a novel about the nature of stories.  For Sabiha, a story is about company.  For John, it’s an act of confession.  But it’s therapeutic qualities benefit the listener as much as the teller, as Ken attests.  A story is also a gift.  Ken considers John’s story to be too much a “gift from the gods” for him to pass it up—even when he learns that John has ambitions to write it himself.  This raises the question that is not precisely answered: just who owns a story?

Lovesong is the kind of novel that will have you thinking—and feeling—long after you finish it.

.

Listen to Alex Miller discuss Lovesong with Ramona Koval.

.

0_MillerAlex Alex Miller will be in Brisbane on  Thursday, 19th November (6.15 for a 6.30 start).   The American Bookstore — 3229 4677 – 197 Elizabeth St, Brisbane. Tickets: $15, $12 concession, $10 bulk 6+

.

Review first published by The Courier-Mail in November 2009.

Advertisements

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Paul Squires said, on November 12, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    I have this about books in which the main character is a writer with a name that is not the authors and the story is about stories and so on. I generally don’t read them is the thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, it’s just a personal preference.

  2. blazenkabrysha said, on November 13, 2009 at 5:09 am

    I have no problem with the great tradition of a first person narrative by a character and have always been fascinated by the concept of “voices” in writing. What sounds interesting here is the notion of story ownership. Is the “story” the details or the stewing up of them? The latter, of course, but it does become problematic when the details are someone else’s property, especially if they have been revealed as information. Legally speaking, you have a better chance pinching the factual details of someone’s story than the fictitious ones.

    • adairjones said, on November 13, 2009 at 5:53 am

      This is familiar terrain for Miller, who was given explicit permission to tell the love story in Journey to the Stone Country. Because it involves an Indigenous man, he required it of himself to get that approval, suggesting he felt the story belonged to the couple. His narrator in Lovesong expresses quite a different view. Just yesterday, I reread Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer, and she discusses some of these ideas at great and interesting length. Not only about story ownership, but also the ethics of shaping a story and the sly ways writers have of getting subjects to talk when it may not be in their best interest to do so.

  3. […] Review by Adair Jones […]

  4. Lanny Eischens said, on February 6, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Hiya … I found this website by mistake. I was searching in Google for beach vacations for my trip when I found your site, I have to say your website is pretty cool I just love the theme, its amazing!. I don’t have the time at the moment to fully read your entire site but I bookmarked it and also will sign up for your RSS feed. I will be back around in a day or two. thanks for a cool site.

  5. Era Huggler said, on March 5, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Excellent post thank you for the info

  6. valerie said, on August 17, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Eben pagan has released his new course guru blueprint and in this guru masterclass he teaches all that he has learn in his marketing career.
    Check this website to know more about Eben pagan guru Master class..]Eben pagan guru blueprint
    If you want to know more about the course you can follow the video on youtube about the guru blueprint..
    Eben pagan guru blueprint

    you can go here to find out more about the guru masterclass.. Eben pagan guru blueprint

    You can learn much more about marketing by just listening to this guy talk. he is such an amazing personality. See as eben pagan releases his master class..
    guru blueprint..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: