Social Import, Good Fiction

The Girl In the Glass, by Jeffrey Ford

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Sandra M., who had become interested in a genre novel of mine, began singing the praises of Ford’s novels, and mostly out of politeness, I decided to download this novel of his in e-book form and give it a read. I’m glad I did.

There’s nothing literarily splendid about Ford’s prose, but then I doubt such was intended. Instead, Ford is a spellbinding story teller. His prose, while somewhat generic, flows like molten butter, and you can’t help but turn page after page. There's a wink and a nod to postmodern sensibilities, however, because the principal characters, protagonists and antagonists, have multiple identities. 

The main three, Diego, Henry, and Thomas are con men, you see, thriving on that fin de siecle preoccupation of the wealthy: spiritualism. Following a seance, Thomas seems to have seen a girl’s image in a window, and five days later the same girl was reported dead. Our three cons decide to investigate the death – gratis. As you might suspect, the story takes all sorts of turns, but the most surprising element is Ford’s take on the U.S.'s Eugenics movement, which traveled to Germany, preceding Hitler’s persecution of minorities and World War II. The author is hardly ham-handed in bringing this disgraceful element of U.S. history to the fore; instead, it’s worked seamlessly into the plot and characterizations.

And as you might expect, the characters, while engaging, are given short shrift until story’s end. If I were to wish for a single embellishment to the book, it would be to present this end-of-story dwelling on character much earlier, perhaps at the beginning.

This is a fun read, but it informs as easily as it entertains. Ford has clearly mastered his genre.


My rating: 17 of 20 stars





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