Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Stone Gods

While this recent book by Jeanette Winterson made for compelling reading and there were flashes of feeling that stirred me, it left me puzzled in the end. The depictions of dying worlds made you feel the barrenness of physical existence, but in the end I think Winterson failed to master the genre well enough to make this work as a novel.

It reminded me strongly of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas -- so strongly that I felt obliged to look up the dates to see that Mitchell's 2004 book did indeed precede Winterson's 2007 novel. The wrapping of parallel stories through time, with the future worlds so strikingly similar in tone and sentiment, makes me wonder how much influence the Mitchell book had on Winterson, if any.

Winterson's style is simpler, more direct, less flashy and more lucid than Mitchell's, but Mitchell's work was somehow more coherent, with more of a punch. The interplanetary love affair between Billie and Spike in the end seemed too episodic to be moving in any way.

I have a good friend who swears by Jeanette Winterson, so I probably have not done her justice by starting with this later work, which I found on the remainder shelf at Politics & Prose. I have some of her earlier books, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and The Passion, on my shelf and will read those before coming to any judgment. Perhaps they will give me a new appreciation for this book.

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