To my shame I have never read any Gene Wolfe before now and decided to start with Peace, partly because of the beautiful cover (yes, I am that shallow) but also because the blurb on the back of the Fantasy Masterworks edition I have sounded intriguing and not at all fantasy like, and the book itself reinforces that view because it reads very much like an ordinary memoir of a man’s life, but it is implied that there is a lot more going on here.
Which is where I have to confess that I had a bit of a problem, because I clearly missed a lot of the subtext around death (not giving too much away as this is mentioned on the back of the book) and I was aware but possibly didn’t entirely understand the timey-wimey stuff until close to the end. This, I hasten to say, is totally my failure to appreciate what Wolfe was doing with this story.
Peace is beautifully written, engaging, with believable characters that I became very fond of, especially our hero Alden Dennis Weer’s Aunt Olivia and her various suitors.
Because I was aware when I got to the end of the novel that I had not really got underneath the skin of this novel, I went off to the world-wide webs to find out what others have said with the result that I am definitely going to read Peace again to see if I was just being particularly dim or if it is as ambiguous as it appears.
All of that sounds like I didn’t enjoy Peace but I really did like it very much. As I said, the writing is super. There is a female character who is rumoured (on apparently no basis at all) to be no better than she should be, the other ladies around her considering all the rumours to be true because she is so fit
For to them a physical pliancy implies moral accommodation
There is also a lovely quote which made me think more about the process of writing than I normally do. Our narrator talks abut doing something between the last sentence he had written and the one he is currently writing, and says
have you never thought as you read that months may lie between any pair of words?
Reading back this is a very fuzzy and disjointed review of what is clearly an important book in the fantasy genre. But I was confused and can only leave you all with the quote on the cover from Neil Gaiman:
a tricky, deep and remarkable novel
I may have missed some of the points but I am very glad that I read it.
This was my first read for Once Upon a Time VII.