Combined Reviews: Sixty Lights by Gail Jones


Reviews of Sixty Lights by Gail Jones

This novel was included on the 2004 Booker Longlist, which doesn't quite qualify it as being unnoticed. It's more a matter of me not noticing it.

In "The Guardian", Susan Elderkin finds the book "A layered meditation on loss and grief and of finding joy in unexpected flashes, Sixty Lights is a passionate and somehow lonely book about the in-between parts of life - flawed, but then most novels worth reading are flawed." By "flaws" Elderkin states that, in the early part of the novel, "Jones seems dangerously at the beck and call of her words rather than of her characters." But she seems to thinks the novel all comes together at the end.

The novelist James Bradley reviewed the book in August 2004, and picked up on the book's photography theme - "The ghostly aspect of photography is never far away. The images it gives us, sliced out of time and carved in light, are possessed of a strange duality, capturing what is lost and preserving it even as they are suffused with the sadness of the moment's passing...Gail Jones' Sixty Lights is an extended meditation on photography that takes its haunting power and weaves it back into a story that reminds us of the ways in which those things that make us most human - love, story, forgiveness - are themselves inseparable from our mortality." Bradley also thinks there is evidence of some over-writing in the book but concludes that "there is an intelligence and honesty to her writing that brings the characters powerfully to life."

Rosemary Sayer, in "The Asian Review of Books - On the Web" considers that "Sixty Lghts is depressing rather than uplifting, especially as we know from the second page of the first chapter that Lucy will die of consumption at the age of 22, but it is without doubt a powerful insight into life for a young woman in Victorian times." Which hopefully doesn't give the game away. ((Just as a side note - you can't really say that this is a spoiler if the author herself reveals a major character development on page 2.))

Kasia Boddy, in "The Daily Telegraph", provides a note of caution in stating: "Ultimately, however, it seems that the main point of all this photographical apparatus is to flatter readers by demonstrating that what they've got in their hands is a literary novel with a carefully thought-out symbolic underpinning. Some may find the underpinning altogether too insistent." Which means what, exactly? That some will and some won't? I'd be happier if she said what she found rather than trying to anticipate what others will think.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 19, 2005 10:25 AM.

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