Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book Review - My Secret History by Paul Theroux

I am a fan of Paul Theroux.

Really, really big fan. I always purchase copies of his books whenever I see them in used bookstores. To me, he is on the same level as Ian McEwan (God of Literature), Joyce Carol Oates, Claire Messud, Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, Alice Hoffman . . . okay, so I have quite a number of authors I simply adore (not to mention some woman who lives in Memphis and writes really creepy work). The funny thing is that I have never read The Mosquito Coast, one of Theroux's more popular works, although I did see the movie and truly liked it. It was from that movie that made me want to read his books. So it was that when I began reading My Secret History, I knew I was in for a treat.

Meet Andre Parent, an American author from Massachusetts who has traveled the world and written about his colourful experiences. We are allowed access into his world from when he was an altar boy with a shotgun in Boston to when he moved to Africa and became a headmaster of a school while "dancing" with African girls. We are also witness to when he discovers that his wife, Jenny, had an affair with another man while he was in Russia, only later to see him take off for India with another woman. There is the Andre Parent who is the acclaimed author and Andre Parent who gets an STD in Africa twice. There is also the Andre Parent who becomes friends with an alcoholic priest and yet another Andre Parent who wants to be a good father and husband. Yet, who is the real Andre, or perhaps they are all part of one Andre Parent? Are we reading the many layers of Andre Parent, or are they actually different men? Theroux wrote a stimulating and engaging novel of a man whose existence causes ripples everywhere he goes. His life is many, all given the same name, and while they share similar characteristics, Theroux shows us that perhaps, they are not the same.

Therein lies the secret.


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