Saturday, October 04, 2008
Gorgeous Lies is the sequel to Martha McPhee's first novel Bright Angel Time. a book I read years ago and of which I have only vague recall. It is the story of a family, a large blended unconventional family led by a charismatic patriarch, Anton Furey. It sprawls over twenty-five years during which Anton leaves his wife Agnes, mother of 4 of his five children, he marries Eve (who has 3 children from a previous marriage) and has a child with her. They buy a property in New Jersey and embark upon establishing a utopian community they call Chardin. We learn a lot about Anton's early life growing up in Texas and the experience in a Jesuit seminary that shaped his character. We learn of his womanizing, his controlling nature, his fearful temper and, ultimately his emotional vulnerability. We find out fairly early that Anton is dying of pancreatic cancer. The novel explores the shifting relationships of the family members over the years and reveals the desperate need for Anton's approval that grips all of them. It's about love and family and the lies that bind them together. There are many characters and McPhee manages to reveal a lot about them though the novel is not a lengthy one. Chardin is full of life; champagne flows freely and everyone drinks it, including the youngsters. They feed on a buffet of knowledge laid out by Anton. He has a half-hearted Gestalt therapy practice and works on his book about Christianity and sexuality in between caring for his enormous brood. At first it seems that it might be a sort of seventies Camelot but gradually we are exposed to the complicated emotions that simmer beneath the surface and occasionally erupt. There is a dreamy feel to the prose that I found appealing and I think I'll dig out Bright Angel Time and read it again.