How do I rave about a book without actually raving? How do I tell you that Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity is certainly the best book I’ve read this year? And possibly the best book I’ve read in many years. With literary parallels to the masterworks of Dickens, Tolstoy, and Thomas Mann, Perlman’s 600-plus page novel takes its time. Be prepared. It’s worth every minute.
Since being down-sized from his teaching job, 30-something Simon Heywood rarely leaves his Melbourne apartment, preferring a meal of cereal and Scotch and reading the Classics to dealing with modern life. His principled naiveté and an unhealthy obsession with ex-girlfriend Anna, whom he hasn’t seen in ten years, are catalysts to a life spiraling out of control. And Simon sinks to an all-time low when he kidnaps Anna’s young son, Sam.
Simon’s downfall is told from seven different points of view, from the people (including Simon), most affected by this foolish act of romantic desperation. Their own separate versions of what happened, their own weaknesses and prejudices, are given like testimony at Simon’s trial. And we readers must act as jury. Like any trial, there are extenuating circumstances, dramatic confessions, and piercing cross-examinations that inevitably lead to the truth.
Seven Types of Ambiguity was published way back in 2003. I don’t know how this bulky gem of a book has sat on our library’s shelves all this time without me knowing about it. And I’m eternally grateful to a Newport Library patron for putting this book into my hands. Thanks, Rose!
If you like intricate plotting, exquisitely beautiful prose, and an almost retro literary styling, like me, you’ll love Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity. And you can reserve it here.