Gardner, John. October Light. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.
Reason read: Autumn in New England is pretty fantastic. October Light takes place (mostly) in Vermont.
When I first picked up October Light I thought it was going to be this old-timey story about two elderly siblings, living in seething resentment of one another in a farmhouse somewhere in Vermont. Admittedly, the book jacket didn’t give me much to go on.
So, the plot: James Page is angry at the world. So angry he can’t stand his sister Sally’s droning television and ends up silencing it with a shotgun blast. The shooting of the television sets in motion a series of events – James locks Sally in a room (but seemingly not her own room because she finds a trashy novel which doesn’t belong to her). She becomes absorbed in said trashy novel; literally can’t put it down and refuses to come out of the bedroom, even when her niece convinces James to free her. James doesn’t care either way. In truth, he is not without deep rooted grief, a grief that has hardened to him. One son committed suicide and another died in an accident. James’s sister, widowed and a polar opposite, does nothing to comfort him. The epic sibling battle lasts for the entire book and escalates to a catastrophic ending.
I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the frame novel technique. Sally’s trashy novel seemed to be the story Gardner really wanted to write. There is no explanation of how this trashy novel came to be in her room until the end. In truth, the story came alive for me in the last fifty pages.
Confessional: the phrase “New England piss and vinegar” had me smiling. Yes, I know the type.
Line I liked, “It was a fact if life that if people knew what you were feeling they could work you around” (p 64).
Author fact: October Light uses the framed novel technique of a story within a story. Gardner does a great job with both voices.
Book trivia: October Light was illustrated by Elaine Raphael and Don Bolognese.
Nancy said: Pearl said October Light was another good novel set in New England. Really, I would beg to differ. Because this is a framed novel only a portion of it takes place in Vermont and even then the location is a rundown Vermont farmhouse. Not a lot of it takes place out and about in New England. Only at the end do you get a real sense of what it is like to live in New England…the covered bridges, mud season, endless waiting for spring…
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “New England Novels” (p 177).