22/01/2009

Sins of the Fathers (by Susan Howatch)

I so enjoy Susan Howatch's writing. she has an amazing gift of characterisation, which is cleverly used in her technique of using different voices to relate her novels.

I first read 'Sins of the Fathers' nearly nine years ago. While I found it gripping, I wasn't too impressed at the world of high finance, or the rather depressing ending. On re-reading recently, I was well aware of the setting but had entirely forgotten the plot, and indeed the climax.

It's the sequel to 'The Rich are Different', starting ten years later, in the mid part of the 20th century. The first person multiple viewpoint method of writing works extremely well to develop the various plots, and to let the reader see, gradually, how each character is motivated, and what has occurred in their past.

It mainly revolves around Cornelius van Zale, the amoral and slightly frighteningly vile head of a bank in the USA. All he really cares about is success and power in their various forms, although he is also devoted to his daughter Vicky and (in a different way) his wife Alicia. I had moments in the book when I felt a pang of sympathy for him, but these never lasted long.

The book is extremely well-written. I have little interest in high finance or the banking world, and usually get rather bored when reading novels on these topics. But somehow Susan Howatch's terse writing, combined with her incredible depth of characterisation, kept me reading almost every word.

Re-reading this book nearly nine years after I first read it, I found it gripping once again, although it took me nearly a fortnight to finish it. The end of the novel once again saddened me, but the conclusion was undoubtedly right.

Definitely best to read after 'The Rich are Different', although it could stand alone. Still in print in the UK, although not currently in the United States. Widely available second-hand.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 22nd January 2009

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