World’s Fair by E. L. Doctorow

Reading this novel felt a little like reading a New Yorker article. Beautifully written in a restrained yet witty manner, going into descriptions in a thoughtful yet balanced way. I went along swimmingly until an episode of illness (the protagonist’s, not mine, rest assured), and then the rhythm faltered a bit for me. So  I started reading other things in parallel, which I frequently do, but not doing so clearly places a book in the realm of compulsive page-turner, and this one did not quite fit into that category.

The story of a young boy and his family in modest circumstances in New York in the late 1930s has all the ingredients you would expect: quite a bit of psychological insight into family life, as-seen-through-the-eyes-of-the-boy, humour, a little pathos.  Vivid place and time descriptions take centre stage throughout: picnic lunches, games with other children, a childhood “amourette” as the French say, and World’s Fair, of course.

I’m not quite sure why the author thought it necessary to occasionally speak in the voice of other characters (the mum, the brother and the grandma at one point, I think), he was doing fine as the boy and I’d have been happy for Edgar to tell the whole story.

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