If you read this blog often then you'll know that suburban ennui and the middle aged, troubled men who get caught in its wake is a theme that has struck our interest big time, and appears in many of our favorite books.
In Poor George we have a similar tale, taking place in 1960s Westchester County suburbs, only this time, the writer is the terribly gifted children's book author, Paula Fox–and it reads like a woman wrote it.
Rather than self loathing mixed with self-fascination, Fox enters the life of a man in crisis with the smirk of a sly observer as well as unusual sympathetic kindness and tenderness. Plus she has a wicked sense of humor. The deft rendering of the female characters, who are complex and layered is another dead giveaway that there is a complex and layered woman behind the typewriter.
Poor George is a private high school teacher with no enthusiasm for his job, his students, or maybe even his wife. When, Ernest, a young miscreant enters his life, he finds a new passion for living; a calling to “save” the boy at the expense of everything else in his life.
I know, it sounds so dreary, and at times can be, but I was surprised by the wit and humor with which the small and large crisises of the book are handled. Fox is a masterful writer of snide descriptors and more than once I had to stop and appreciate the utterly simple beauty of her wicked sentences.
Strangely, despite being a beloved author of her time, this novel was only recently republished.
Soon Jim will be recommending a great companion piece to this, Revolutionary Road, a novel with similar themes set in the same time period.