G. is the nominative for a young Italian/British man born in the 1880s, reared in the 1890s, ancillary witness to major movements in history (Garibaldi and the rise of socialism in England and beyond), and experiencing a kind of liberation from the constraints of 19th century mores, we have the meditations and liberties of sexuality that would have definitely been a part of the landscape, but missing from much of the literature.
This is a book, though, that doesn’t parody and mimic the structures and styles of the Victorian novel. Both John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda (which I will be reviewing next) do this, with varying levels of self-awareness.
This novel is more like a series of journals and meditations, not unlike Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. It’s also posed like an art’s study, describing scenes not in narrative forms, but as pictures we’re viewing and considering. There’s also the addition and interpolation of doggerel and crude sexual drawings. It’s an interesting novel, and one that I was initally enthusiastic about, but also one that faded for me by the end. The middle dips, but the end is quite good. It’s a bit of a hidden gem among Booker Prize winning novels because the reading experience is somewhat sui generis, but it’s a departure from what a lot of the winning novels did through their texts.
I don’t think I will ever revisit it, but I might be more interested in John Berger’s nonfiction and essay writing (he’s primarily an art critic) if not more of his fiction.