MEG by Maurice Gee


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Part of the problem in reading this talented, oblique family tale from New Zealand is that it's a sequel to a novel--Plumb--which hasn't been published here. So it's no easy matter to start following the lives of the Plumb children, twelve of them--the issue of a pacifist Unitarian New Zealand preacher and his wife--as they grow up through the middle 20th century in directions as independent and resistant as that of their father. But you may slowly warm to the story, and especially to narrator Meg, who chronicles all the family comings and goings when she reaches middle age in the early 1960s. Married to the bumbling Fergus, a plumber, and now looking after the final days of her cancer-riddled brother Robert (an ex-conscientious-objector), Meg has a ""furor scribendi"": she must account on paper, forever, for the white sheep of the family as well as for the black--such as homosexual brother Alfred, with his implacable hatred for his old, then-ghostly father. And New Zealand author Gee gives Meg just the right narrative virtues: unsentimentality, a pared-clean and syncopated prose style, and a nearly Oriental fatalism. Far more subtle and thoughtful than most family sagas, then--with Meg's ultimate victory over death and disillusionment an especially well-earned effect--but the first hundred pages are likely to confuse and elude most US readers; and only those with patience and fortitude will stay on to appreciate Gee's ironic past/present fabric--which includes the Depression, WW II, the Fifties, plus shrewd twists galore involving money and sex.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's