Light Years by James Salter

This is a book that always seems to be hinting at some metaphysical reality sitting alongside us. It reminded me of Murakami in that sense.

It concerns a rather beautiful family living near New York, in that lush and lovely area that figures in so many books and films – not the Hamptons, or the excessively wealthy neighbourhood (does it even qualify as a neighbourhood?) of the Great Gatsby – but just rural comfort and plushness within striking distance of the city. It is really about a couple, blessed in all ways, who start to lose their moorings as people. No, that’s not right – their moorings change, that’s all.

Salter’s style is allusive – I don’t think I imagined some references to Plato – but at the same time poetic and dense. He does, brilliantly, capture the essence of the uncertainty and vagueness that comes upon people in middle age. 

It is a book about faded ideals, moral drift, and the aimlessness of life, and how that can be good and bad. There is some humour but it is very subtle.

I don’t think it will be everyone’s cup of tea but I found it quite unsparing in its confrontation of purposelessness and how it can undermine people. A good but quite unusual novel.


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