Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Review: Early Warning by Jane Smiley

Early Warning is the sequel to Some Luck, and while I normally don't read trilogies until they're all published, Jane Smiley is doing something different and innovative (as per usual): she's publishing all three volumes of this trilogy in one year. So while I don't know what the third book's title is, or when it's coming out, it should be in the next 6 months, so I won't forget too much.

Which is good because that could be a bit of a problem. In these books, we are following the Langdon family from Iowa, over 100 years. Some Luck started in 1920 and covered 33 years. Early Warning begins in 1963. And the family has grown. In the first book, I really didn't have trouble keeping the characters straight and telling them apart, but that's because it was really focused on Walter and Rosanna and their children. But as those children are now grown up, married, with kids (and grandkids!) of their own, the cast of characters has expanded greatly and I find myself flipping to the front family tree occasionally to refresh myself. Normally, I hate those family trees as they indicate to me a writer who can't distinguish between her own characters well enough for me to remember, nor who is able to edit her characters down to a manageable number. However, Smiley has the second problem but it's not a problem here as of course it makes sense in this scenario. Of course a farm family in the 1920s would have 6 kids and this is just the math that happens over 66 years. Yes, a few people have died, and I expect that to pick up in the third book, but not enough. Still, it's not a huge thing here.

It's hard to review a book in a trilogy without giving spoilers for the previous books. Suffice it to say that good people get better, immature people grow up, there are hippies, everyone spreads out across the country, but they all come together for the important things. As usual, Smiley is a master at subtly creating very three-dimensional characters, and at creating a riveting story out of everyday life that doesn't feel like a plot. It did take me a while to get into this one but once I did, I couldn't put it down. In this book there is also an extra mystery character and I did figure out who he was before it was revealed (but there was a good red herring--it could have gone either way). I read a review headline asking if Smiley, with this trilogy, is the American Tolstoy. Well, we'll have to see how she brings it all together with book 3, but she's off to an excellent start and the minute the third book is announced, I will put it on reserve.

I checked this book out of the library. In fact, because I put it on reserve so early, I was the very first patron ever to check this particular book out!


Kay said...

I want to read this trilogy and had been thinking about waiting until #3 was published. However, a book group that I attend sporadically has decided to read Some Luck later in the summer. So, maybe I'll go ahead and read that one. I did go and look up book #3. It's called Golden Age and will come out on October 20. FYI. LOL

Carin Siegfried said...

Ooh, thanks! I've been looking up book 3 periodically but I missed the announcement! It's on my TBR list now. Yay! Yes, you should go ahead and start the books, I think. October will be here sooner than you realize.