Pointless. I think that’s what Luce might have said. No, not this book, not at all. The book isn’t pointless but perhaps attempting to write a review is! I’m not sure whether I read this book or this book read me.
The Book of Luce is a Gnostic Gospel and like many fine gospels that have gone before is subject to both interpretation and misinterpretation. Just the word gospel offers us something Biblical or theological in connotation and there is ultimately a sense of some kind of religious transformation subtlety weaving its way throughout the pages of this book. Religious in its widest sense, I should add. I think this is very much a Marmite book, love it/hate it. It does rather depend on your mind set and the expanse of your imagination and maybe even your life experiences. An open mind is not only required but is essential. If your sensibilities are easily offended by frequent references to drug use than you may struggle.
The genderfluid Chimera Obscura wants to know who the equally genderfluid Luce is. That’s what the book is about. Only it isn’t. It’s about a whole lot more than that. In part it tells of an odyssey, it depicts in full psychedelic glory the whole technicolor ambience of the sixties. In some way that does set the tone for an almost hallucinogenic orgy of words and images and sensations. It triggered so many memories I could compile a list without always knowing why such reminiscences were evoked. Somehow this story puts into words the life grail we are all seeking. But then sprinkle it with some conspiracy theory angst and an additional mood is created.
Luce is who we all seek, who we all want to be, maybe, and who we can never quite seem to find and if we think we do the finding cannot be sustained. That makes for poignant reading. However on another level Luce takes on an almost Messiah-like mantle with the powers and mystery surrounding such a figure.
I suppose this might be seen as a novel of magical realism. There are a lot of spiritual and metaphysical allusions, metaphors and imagery that elevate it. It is not a quick read and my own feeling is that to compose a judicious review would require more than one reading of this book.
The writing is tight, controlled and flowing. Despite the length of the book words are not wasted. The cast of characters are endless. As the novel progressed I found myself having to work hard to keep each set of characters (or character) and their relationship with Luce clear in my head in terms of chronology and their role in the gradual elucidation of Luce.
It is the author’s third novel and there are certainly references, through title, to at least one of the others. I haven’t read them though. Whether that has any bearing on my response to The Book of Luce I don’t know but my guess is it doesn’t.
I suppose that any book that describes a journey of life changing and mind altering proportions has the potential to uplift and there are some very euphoric moments in this story but also balanced by some paranoia and anxious passages.
It is a book of depth and I found it a very worthwhile read. But strangely even though I reached the last page I still feel something is unfinished……….
Thanks to Jenni Leech at Hodder and Stoughton for the opportunity to read this wonderful book.