I think I learned about this novel from reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but if not, something along the same lines that references this novel as examples of a Southern, urbane, low-key novel. And well, it’s definitely those things. It’s also a novel that spends most of the time not focusing on issues of race and racism, but there’s still a significant section within the middle that deals with racism in a curious, if not especially satisfying way.
The novel is about Anson Page, a 40ish lawyer from the town of Pompey’s Head, a stand-in or blend of Charleston and Savannah, who lives in New York now, and is tasked with returning to his hometown to investigate a financial mystery related to a local author. The author’s finances have been recently called into question because a series of withdrawals are unaccounted for from two decades worth of writing and it’s unclear whether the author is aware of them or not, or if he had been being taken advantage of. This plotline is mostly a MacGuffin.
The main thrust of the novel is Page’s return and his thinking about his return, and his thinking about the women in his life and how this return will affect those things.
Mostly the novel is fine. It’s mostly well-written, but has a bizarre naming convention throughout. There are some well-rendered scenes, especially in the build-up with Anson and a girl he almost married. It’s also just kind of a midcentury novel that can’t quite do what Thomas Wolfe did in You Can’t Go Home Again or James Agee in Death in the Family in terms of being away and returning, and cannot handle the racial complexity of something like Go Down Moses or Light in August.