Wednesday, 10 May 2000

Ethan Canin: For Kings and Planets (1998)

Edition: Bloomsbury, 1999
Review number: 497

For Kings and Planets is a novel about two friends, from the date that they meet at Columbia University through the next ten years as their lives diverge. Though the tale is entirely realist, it is hard not to feel that the two of them symbolise different parts of the personality, Marshall the neurotic and brilliant, Orno the staid and down to earth.

In terms of plot, the novel is fairly predictable and perhaps a little complacent in its acceptance of the small town American way of life as an ideal. The central characters are the important feature of the book, though; what happens to them is almost irrelevant. They are perhaps not as three dimensional as they need to be to hold this level of interest (and this probably explains why they seem to be more symbols of something other than themselves), but they are reasonably compelling within their limitations.

While charming, For Kings and Planets lacks the wider significance it sometimes seems to think it has.

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