Thursday, September 29, 2016
I am not a fan of stream of consciousness writing. It is often an insipid descent into the mind of a madman or more often an excuse for an author to meander aimlessly through what is thought to be a mind yet often ends up being pointless. Although "The Heart of Henry Quantum" is a stream of consciousness novel I found the trip through Henry's mind well worth the time..
Henry is a man approaching middle age. He is settled into a good position at the advertising agency looking back on the sum total of his life and finding it wanting. He wants children. Margaret, his wife, is far too busy with her own more aggressive career in real estate, and the idea of children with Henry not up to her high standards. Margaret cares more about her brilliant wastrel brother with his feckless and irresponsible ways. She is thoughtful and far more generous to her brother than her husband. Henry and Margaret have reach that point in their marriage where Margaret gorges herself on Henry's flesh and soul with malicious glee. Henry did not turn out the way Margaret expected, but she will get her pounds of flesh however she can.
It is nearly Christmas and Henry has decided to buy a bottle of Chanel #5 for Margaret. The perfume is on his mind while he drives to work and at work and while he makes his way to get his peace offering to smooth the broken way back into Margaret's good graces. They were once in love, but Henry cannot remember what happened or how they got here. It is at that moment that Daisy, the woman Henry still loves, but who ended their affair, crosses Henry's path.
Pepper Harding gives the reader a glimpse into Daisy's and Margaret's mind and leaves Henry the last word. It is ultimately up to this gangly man-boy who still wears red high-tops with his business suit and acquits himself admirably at his advertising job to figure out not only what he wants but how he wants to get there. "The Heart of Henry Quantum" is a complex mechanism unknown even to Henry. In the end, still on the trail of the elusive Chanel #5 for his wife while waiting for Margaret's beloved brother at the airport, he comes face to face with the answer to his dilemma and the path to happiness.
Henry reminds me of David Tennant in the role of Doctor Who, not only for his fashion sense but for his style and insight. Henry's chaotic thoughts are as revealing of who he has become as who he really is and has always been. Harding's rendering of an unhappy man who is certain he has messed up his life and ruined his future is poignant and sweet at times. Margaret and Daisy are razor sharp characterizations of two women who have their places in the parade of life figured out and waste no time getting what they want. There are regrets enough to go around and therein lies the soul at "The Heart of Henry Quantum". The trip to the quantum depths of modern life with Harding as the tour guide was not a waste of time. The nuances and subtleties of discourse are well worth reading again to savor all the flavors and aromas available. A solid 4/5 stars.
That is all. Disperse.