A Review of The Feast of Love

The Feast of LoveEven though it’s been a little hectic since coming back from my brief trip this weekend, I’m going to attempt to share my thoughts on The Feast of Love. I figure if I don’t get to it soon, all of my attention will be focused on decoding The Elegance of the Hedgehog and The Feast of Love will just fade from my mind.

Not that it isn’t memorable per se… it just doesn’t require the same brain power as my current pick. Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love, like its name implies, tells tales of love and weaves them together. There is Bradley who has been unlucky in love, Diana who married Bradley but loves someone else, Chloe and Oscar who enjoy the lust of young love, Harry and Esther Ginsburg who love each other as well as their wayward son, and others.

What I really liked about the book was the blending of genres. The meta beginning finds Charles Baxter himself on a walk in the middle of the night after waking from a bad dream. He comes across his neighbor Bradley who begins to tell him a little about his failed marriages. Bradley then advises Charles that he should write about love, real love, all kinds of love, instead of the fiction he normally writes. Bradley urges Charles on saying, “Okay. Chapter One. Every relationship has at least one really good day…”

And so chapter two opens with “Every relationship has at least one really good day.” From there, Charles takes Bradley’s idea and writes the real story of love, focusing on Bradley, his employees, neighbors and ex-wives. But of course it’s not really real after all, but rather fiction masking as fact.

I love the way the stories interconnect. It made me more interested in each individual plot knowing that it would affect the other plots in both large and small ways. In my opinion, Bradley may be the thread that keeps the separate parts together, but it is Chloe and Oscar’s story provides the most heart of the book. They may be tattooed and pierced slackers obsessed with sex, yet their feelings for each other are so intense that it makes you root for them against everything.

In parts the book does start to ramble. Ideas about philosophy, drug-fueled visions and random tangents tend to derail the main stories and distracted me from the focus of the novel. I am less concerned with philosophical musings than I am with character and plot development (which could just be my downfall in The Elegance of the Hedgehog.) Overall, though, the honest portrayal of complex and messy love made it a book worth reading.

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