So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz is a virtuoso performance, a masterfully told tale of deception and self-delusion set in a small Midwestern town. Schwarz writes beautifully, using unusual imagery such as in this sentence: “He’d not, he recalled, even uttered ‘Excuse me’ the time he’d accidentally bumped her with his lunch tray, the contact between the orange plastic and the green wool of her sweater so intimate, so electric it had instantly closed his throat and jump-started his heart.” She also expertly juggles two time frames (plus flashbacks) and seven points of view smoothly and without confusion.
Reading So Long at the Fair is a bit like being a fly on the wall inside a car hurtling along at breakneck speed—you know someone is going to get hurt, you just don’t know who or how badly. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say there are several cars all hurtling towards each other and you the reader are inside each one in turn, kept on the edge of your seat as you admire the breathtaking view and dread the inevitable crash.
So I should have loved this book, right? There is no doubt that Schwarz is a talented writer and this book kept me up half the night (literally), so how can I not love it? But I didn’t. Maybe because ultimately adultery is not a subject matter that interests me that much. Or maybe because just about every single one of her characters is self-deluded and there’s not much evidence that any of them (with one exception) grows very much over the course of this novel. Mostly I think it’s because almost all of her characters seemed unsympathetic* to me. The world she paints is not one I would care to revisit. But reading the book was still one hell of a ride!
To read what others thought of this book, head over to these blogs:
Breaking the Spine • Everyday I Write the Book Blog • Many A Quaint and Curious Volume • Reader for Life
You can read the first chapter on The New York Times site.
Thank you to Doubleday for sending me this book to review.
*Interestingly enough, in an interview quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Schwarz apparently said that So Long at the Fair was based on the idea that “all the parties involved in an adulterous relationship could be sympathetic.” Note that if you haven’t read the book yet, this review gives too much of the plot away, in my opinion.