Written in the first person, the novel focuses on the narrator’s struggle to resist seducing a willing under age female, within context of a series of personal disasters: divorce, death, and dementia. Each letter is a response to these events and what others say of his relationship with the girl. The work thus presents the reader with a confronting, but rarely examined perspective on male love, sexuality and obsession.Written in the first person, the novel focuses on the narrator’s successful struggle to resist the temptation to seduce an apparently willing under age female. This takes place within the context of a series of personal disasters: the failure of his marriage, the death of his mother and his father’s retreat into dementia. Presented as a series of unsent letters, each letter is a response to these events and what others say of his relationship with the girl. The work thus presents the reader with a confronting, but rarely examined perspective on male... More > love, sexuality and obsession.< Less
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Dec 20, 2016Unsent Letters is a very classy piece of literature, but be warned: it is neither an easy read, nor a comforting one. If you are depressed or suicidal it might just push you over the edge on account of the protagonist’s morbid – or necessary and devastatingly clear-eyed – preoccupation with outrageous fortune, heartache and the shocks that flesh is heir to: including childhood rape, spousal treachery and the indignities of gross bodily decay, dementia and incontinence in old age. Written in the first person, the novel focuses, as the blurb puts it “on the narrator’s struggle to resist seducing a willing under-age female, within context of a series of personal disasters… Each letter is a response to these events and what others say of his relationship with the girl.” What is most successful and truly brilliant about it is the utterly convincing authorial voice with which all these deep, dark difficult issues are confronted, as the narrator wrestles his complex thoughts and feelings... More > into writing, pinning down as best he can an articulate, coherent, explicitly philosophical exploration of his situation and his options. Basically, he feels duty forbids the physical expression of his love for the young girl: Kant, as it were, tells him he can’t. Nietzsche’s moral scepticism dangles before him a more daring alternative. But will he take it? Philosophy, ultimately, doesn’t help; it leaves him confused. Locked into introspection, he is a Hamlet as the Prince of Denmark might be in an alternative universe, where his tragedy is that he shuns the tragic, refusing death but also rejecting life. The epistolary mode is a clever technique, handled with assurance. Likewise, Muirhead’s subtle, poetic use of language signals unmistakably that we are in the hands of a skilled and sensitive writer. Whether that is enough for us will depend perhaps on our own personal histories, temperaments and values. The narrator tells us he tends towards the Kantian, and Unsent Letters will perhaps speak to readers of a similar disposition, especially if they like a generous dash of religious mysticism mixed into their philosophical cocktail. By sharp contrast, those who lean towards Nietzsche, as does Red Rover, whose attraction towards young boys is at the heart of Rod Downey’s novel The Moralist, might well find themselves disdainfully tossing the book aside, although I would urge respectful patience and a calm, careful, complete reading.< Less
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- B. J. Muirhead (Standard Copyright License)
- Second Edition
- December 17, 2015
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