Friday, September 24, 2010

Love Triangle

The love triangle – we've all seen examples of it. Shakespeare used it in “Twelfth Night”, there's Tom, Daisy and Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby”, and the memorable Rick-Ilsa-Victor triangle in “Casablanca”. David Pinner, the central character in Nick Laird's Glover's Mistake, finds himself in this predicament. He is a thirty-three year old London college teacher who reconnects with Ruth Marks, a forty-five year old successful artist who had taught him years earlier in art school. Early on David believes that Ruth is attracted to him, but it soon becomes apparent that she is interested in his much younger, handsomer flatmate James Glover, a likable if somewhat dim bartender.

The novel is written in the third person, but it is told from David's point of view, and he initially seems to be decent if a little sad. But gradually it becomes clear that Glover's Mistake is innocently believing that David has his best interests at heart. David has the unreliable narrator's talent for self-justification as he persistently undermines the romance while pretending to be a devoted friend to both Ruth and James. It would be depressing if it weren't so funny and so cleverly written. Laird skewers the pretensions of the art world, explores the nastiness of anonymous blogs, rambles through London neighborhoods and ask questions about the meaning of love.

This is not a novel for readers who want their characters to be likable, or even admirable. Ruth is self-absorbed and insensitive, David a manipulating misanthrope, and although James is endearing he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But it's a clever and fast moving cautionary tale about the dangers of love triangles.

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