Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, absurd, horrifying. Great read but lacks subtlety., May 16, 2008
This review is from: McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
The novel starts out almost almost farce-like with the bumbling oaf of a dentist McTeague, his clever, good-natured friend Marcus, and the sweet, innocent Trina caught in a seemingly benign love triangle. But it quickly turns into a dark story of greed, lust, and trickery which is both comical and engrossing in its absurdities, while at the same time horrific in the undeniably truths it reveals about human nature.

Though I love novels that are thoroughly crafted so that themes and recurring symbols are not terribly difficult to dissect, I felt Norris to be a little too blunt and overt in what he wanted to be taken from events. Each character represents only one or two exaggerated qualities, which makes for an intense and profound plot, but not a terribly finessed one. In effect, the novel does not show what it is like to be a complex, everyday human, but rather what would happen if humans allowed themselves to be governed by their animal instincts, which reminds us just how much of that animal lurks within our everyday selves.

I read McTeague for a class, and the professor premised it by saying that it had "the greatest ending of any story, in any language, in the history of the world." I'm not entirely sure to what extent I believe that, but it's definitely an end worth getting to.
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