Usually, I write reviews pretty soon after I finish a book or, as you can probably see in a few of my reviews, the details start to fade. But the school year has started, and so I’ve been carrying this one in my backpack for a few days.
My only previous Conrad experiences were with Heart of Darkness, both as a high school student and at least once as a teacher. I started Lord Jim at least once and made no progress. So I was a little uncertain as I approached this book club selection.
It was really, really good. Even if I didn’t know that Conrad learned English when he was 40, I would still have been very impressed with his detailed and engaging characterizations of a secret agent and the network of people who intersect with him. He brings every one of the dozen or so characters to life.
And the tone is remarkably sly. There are no good people here, and there are certainly no heroes. There is one innocent person and what happens to him is heartbreaking.
Mostly, though, Conrad humanizes and complicates (which might be two words for the same thing) everyone involved. People are, in Conrad’s world, quite petty, however much that might cloak themselves in slogans. And that seems right to me.