Tuesday, June 16, 2009

His Family: Chapter 1

I just finished the first chapter of His Family by Ernest Poole. What a chapter it is. It begins with this masterpiece of a sentence, describing the young New City York: "A place of turbulent thoroughfares, of shouting drivers, hurrying crowds, the crack of whips and the clatter of wheels; an uproarious, thrilling town of enterprise, adventure, youth; a city of pulsing energies, the center of a boundless land; a port of commerce with all the world, of stately ships with snowy sails; a fascinating pleasure town, with throngs of eager travelers hurrying from the ferry boats and rolling off in hansom cabs to the huge hotels on Madison Square."
What a sentence. It captures the essence of youth. The use of semicolons instead of periods really lifts this sentence off the page and brings it to life. The energy of the city flows with the energy of the sentence allowing us, the delighted readers, to feel Roger's (the main characters) emotions not only for the excitement of the city but also his excitement of being alive, the theme of the chapter. What's interesting about the rest of the chapter is that after this breath-taking sentence Poole gives us the inner workings of Roger's mind; takes us from the lively city into the withdrawing man we will get to know over the course of the novel.
And a lot happens to him in the first chapter. We see him lose his wife. We see the vivacity of his life slowly edge away into thousands of night's spent alone. For a chapter that started out by giving nothing but setting it turn into a wonderful example of how to make a character really come alive. Even as he plays chess with his daughter we see shadows of the man he use to be.
The section where Roger is thinking back on losing his wife is clouded over with longing and guilt. Roger feels that life is always just beginning until his wife dies. The emotion that he feels in the next couple of paragraphs comes across just as much as his excitement to be in young New York.
The brilliance in this chapter, though, comes through in every character, not just Roger. His daughter, Edith, is a controlling woman over her husband. Edith's husband, Bruce, a man who wants to spend as much time in the office as he can, learning new things. Roger's other two daughters don't figure into this chapter every much but they seem to be happy go-lucky, the way we imagine that Roger was when he was young.
The best part of this whole chapter is that everything is given to us in scenes. Roger's character, and that of his daughters, is reveally slowly over the chapter, giving us small bits that we must fit together on our own.
I did feel that his dialoge was lakcing a little. It didn't feel real; but then again it was coming from a dying woman.
More thoughts to come, but I'm definitely please with my first choice.

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