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The Great Night: A Novel Hardcover – April 26, 2011
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“Magical. . . Adrian. . . uses Shakespeare’s comedy not for a virtuosic display of stylistic mimicry but as a vessel to help him access and contain the amazingly bountiful, sparkling ‘jewels from the deep’ (as the Bard called them) of his rich imagination.”—Heller McAlpin, National Public Radio
“A wild ride—I found [The Great Night] almost viscerally thrilling, especially the experience of moving through [Adrian’s] prose as it crackles and purrs . . . the most brilliant and profound reimagining in Adrian’s vision isn’t the way he magics the humans but the way he humanifies Shakespeare’s fairies . . . Reading The Great Night was an extraordinary experience. When I finished it, I started it over again.”—Alexandra Mullen, The Barnes and Noble Review
“Adrian has demonstrated a vast imagination in his earlier books, particularly The Children’s Hospital, a tale of doctors and patients and angels (yes, angels) in a post-apocalyptic hospital that has become the world’s new ark. He is a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology and a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, and his work indeed suggests a profound interest in where life meets death and how we make sense of that great undiscovered country . . . The Great Night is no exception . . . Adrian once again left me feeling both meditative and moved.”—Chris Bohjalian, The Boston Globe
“Himself a pediatric oncologist, Adrian has always written with depth and compassion about grief, but I can’t recall anything in his two prior novels or collection of stories that matches that chapters in [The Great Night] describing what it’s like to be a mother experiencing the loss of a child . . . Rather than Pyramus and Thisbe, we’re treated to a musical version of “Soylent Green,” the 1973 dystopian thriller starring Charlton Heston, in which there isn’t enough to eat, and the Soylent Corp. makes its money by secretly turning people into food. The humor is—well—delicious. But it also makes a joyous, life-affirming point, echoing Shakespeare’s own insistence that lovers must eventually return to everyday life in Athens.”—Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
About the Author
Chris Adrian is the author of Gob’s Grief, The Children’s Hospital, and A Better Angel. Selected by The New Yorker as one of their “20 Under 40,” he lives in San Francisco, where he is a fellow in pediatric hematology-oncology.
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It begins magically enough, and the backdrop is wonderfully fleshed out. The author really gets you there, and you're with him for a good while, but then things veer off into a cacophany that becomes a bit unpalatable. I can see where he was going with this and perhaps it could have been a really epic work, but the characters seemed to devolve into ghosts of themselves, and where you wanted to really understand them and get inside their heads and discover what made them tick it seemed to fall short. The final chapters seemed rushed and not thoroughly planned out. I felt myself wondering where this was going and why was it going there and however was this going to come to a beautiful conclusion. And in the end, I personally thought it just didn't.
I felt like there was just so much going on, and perhaps the chaos of the last half of the book was entirely intentional, but I feel that it could have benefitted from a slightly more controlled form of chaos. I found myself not caring much for the characters or what happened to them and finished the book only mildly satisfied.
With a concept as awesome as this I really wanted to be pulled in and care, and I was really disappointed that I didn't.
The reason I picked up this book is that I heard someone trustworthy say on NPR, talking about novels that should have been considered for the fiction Pulitzer (which was not awarded this year) that this should have been a contender. The plot outline sounded like fun, and there are moments where the book reads like a Shakespearean trip down the rabbit hole.
But there was waaaay too much plot and too many characters, with too many complicated back stories, shoe-horned into the book. The fairies were quite vivid, but the humans were hard to keep straight -- I constantly had to look back to see which one was the gay guy with OCD who worked on the oncology ward, versus the straight lovelorn dude who was a tree doctor.
For me, it got more and more jumbled toward the big finish.
I'm so glad to be done with this book!