Unread, now read book 8 – The Pages, Murray Bail

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Moving between a sheep station in rural NSW, Sydney and various European cities, the story traces Wesley Anthill’s determination to become a philosopher, the siblings that support his dream, his trip to Europe, the events that drive him back home and his life back on the sheep station. After Wesley’s death, Erica, a philosopher is employed the Anthill estate to go through all of his writings and papers and to establish if Wesley really was a philosopher of merit and therefore whether his papers should be published. Accompanying her is a friend from Sydney, Sophie, a psychologist.

I could have done without Sophie. Bail uses her as a motif, sets her psychological musings against Erica’s philosophical ideals but her characterization is very clichéd and she is given very silly things to say. And the subplot involving her father is a bit obvious. If the intention is to compare and contrast the approaches of philosophy and psychology then at the very least Bail could have provided ‘combatants’ of equal stature. However, I can forgive him this for his lyrical descriptions of the Australian landscape (which is what I loved most about another novel of his, Eucalypus, a must-read!!).

A meditation on love, the complicated dance between man and woman that is the start of any relationship, and the difficulties of thought itself, The Pages is a beautiful, tightly-written novel that stays with you long after you have finished reading.

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