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Have you ever come across books that never seem to end and every time you pick one up, you struggle to read as many pages as the last time you picked it up. The Topeka School is one of those...

 

Structurally, The Topeka School should be right up my alley - shifting points of view following four characters, non-linear time sequence, fragments building into a whole. The trouble was, it was all too verbose. Two of the characters were psychologists (one practising and one a famous writer) and their sections had way too much psycho-babble. Adam, their son, was (bizarrely) a champion debater, a rapper, a sportsman and popular - although his mother, at least, seemed to think he was emotionally stunted. He had his moments - when he was actually doing something - but there was way too much navel-gazing and  fretting about having a controversial mother. It was dull. 

 

The main redeeming feature were the sections from Darren's perspective. Darren was a school contemporary of Adam and had some kind of intellectual disability. Adam and his mates oscillated between socialising with him out of sympathy and trying to manipulate him into being a figure of ridicule. It was ugly, but engrossing and it was obviously not going to end well (as the non-linear timeline made clear from the beginning). 

 

I think the idea was that The Topeka School should speak about the current state of Middle America (Kansas previously being famous only for not being Oz). It might have done that with more accessible characters and by not trying quite so hard to sound intellectual. This just buried any messages so far deep that the only people who will find them are the ones who don't need to hear them. 

 

**000

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That's a disappointment, MisterHG. I very much enjoyed Leaving the Atocha Station, his next novel not so much and now this...

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1 hour ago, brightphoebus said:

That's a disappointment, MisterHG. I very much enjoyed Leaving the Atocha Station, his next novel not so much and now this...

 

Well it might work for you - I read this on holiday which may not have been the optimal conditions...

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This got a rave review in the New York Times "Review of Books" last weekend, but something made me hesitate.  Now I will hesitate more.

 

My father grew up on a farm in rural Kansas and my mother has lots of relatives in Kansas City.  I never really see any of them and I only saw the farm my father grew up on once.  I think if your family has roots anywhere in the American Midwest, at some point, the path goes through Kansas.

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