i think this is the book i've recommended most this year, aside from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, but all the same it's taken me a while to get to this review. i think that's because however much i enjoyed this book, it puzzled me, and i really wanted to solve that puzzle, to understand what the author was doing as he drew me in. i got to very close to the end of the novel and a statement was made that i took to be a key, so i went back to the beginning and start reading again, in hopes of revealing its pattern. the key did seem to fit at the beginning but as i drew back to the point i'd discovered it, and beyond that page, i realized it wasn't going to give me what i wanted. there is a lot to love about this novel: it's brave, and smart, and thoughtful. i was completely involved in this clean and beguiling prose. i didn't get the women, really, or the marriage, in fact i often found them frustrating, but i've never been married, and i've never been a typical girl, so that's probably explanation enough for that -- i think these portrayals would be more recognizable to others. i loved the allusions and refractions of hitchcock films within the book and they added tantalizing layers to the already intricate premise.
i think ultimately the intricate premise of the novel, and its structure prevents me from giving this book a five star review. i compared its difficulties to those i see in the tolkien's lord of the rings (which bogs down in the middle) and i think i stand by that. the novel describes with detail three sets of marriages, and while i was engaged in all the narratives, i think i stayed too long in the third to be able to shake it in quite the way i ought, for the novel to fully succeed for me, by the time i was again returned to the first. of course, i will also say that when i read lord of the rings in its original seven volume set (rather than the current three book configuration we all know so well) i did not find it as difficult to readjust my interest or inclination, so perhaps mr. ross can arrange for a seven book collector set someday. :)
this novel is an exploration of love and marriage, wrapped up in a puzzle, and well worth reading even if, like me, you have still have questions when you close its cover.
p.s. i still think it has a lot to do with the flitcraft story. but then, i think almost everything worthwhile does. :)