The Book of Daniel (Doctorow)

What’s amazing here is not that this is a great book. I pretty much love everything Doctorow did, with The March being the one exception (so far). What’s amazing is where this book falls in Doctorow’s  chronology of publications – third. I’m so grateful that someone had the vision to see this novel, based on the lives of the Rosenberg children, for the shape-shifting, vicious, incisive masterwork it is. Doctorow shifts tenses and points of view in the middle of paragraphs. He’s got something to say here about America, something that comes off more polished in my memory of his next novel, Ragtime, and there are no heroes here. Nor, really, are there victims. Or perhaps everyone is – most especially the sister, Susan. I have never read such a precise dissection of something so clearly (and deliberately?) a mess. This book is a lesson, too, on how writers can avoid the traps of showing off their research and getting bogged down by exposition. The plot doesn’t move, it careens. Violently. A pinball that has taken on a life of its own. And, as any story of government overreach and citizen rebellion will likely do these days, it resonates, reminds. And warns.


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