Robert Peett, the founder of Holland House Books and Grey Cells Press shares his review of the literary novel, Sunflower. The book, written by Author Cass McMain, will be released tomorrow.
My personal review of Sunflower, also posted on the website:
I was pointed in the direction of ‘Sunflower’ by a friend who had seen it on a writing forum. Within a couple of pages I was sure that this was worth reading, and approached Cass through the mutual friend. She duly sent me the manuscript, apparently a little surprised at my interest.
I realised then how long it was – 140,000 words, a real epic. Too long, according to conventional wisdom – surely too long unless it contained suitably epic events and huge cast of characters.
One Saturday late morning I opened the Word document and, seated at my desk, began reading. I read straight through, stopping only for coffee. 140,000 words in one day. Very little happens in the book, to be truthful, and what there is doesn’t happen quickly. Characters? Well, there are maybe three or four who are central, and perhaps a dozen (including a waitress and a salesman who appear for a few lines) in all. The style is simple, and there are no great phrases, no extended analyses, no bravura passages. I felt as though I had read a brief, simple book, and as though I had been immersed in another life.
Above all I knew this should be published.
It is hard, though, to describe or characterise. If it was a painting it would undoubtedly be in the impressionist style – or some midway point between pointillism and the obsessive twisting strokes of Van Gogh. There is a rhythm and a repetition, an extraordinary care with each word, each sentence, each punctuation mark, but it is true art, for one is never aware of the effort nor of the innate skill.
The reader is taken into the lives of the characters, the life, above all, of Michael. Like most lives his is composed of small moments, small worries, and small ambitions; as with most lives there is a fragility to his. The fragility is in part due to a fault line in him – the kind of fault line we all have. One particular small moment has a butterfly effect on the whole; the structure begins to crumble, quietly, almost unnoticed, and a life of quiet desperation emerges.
Throughout there are those moments that strike home and for me there was one particular moment: a telephone call, innocuous and unimportant, that made me stop reading for a little while, so personal was the recognition. There is throughout a kind of gentle descent – and the most gentle dissection of a person one can imagine. Yet in the end this about strength and hope, about life-giving light as well as life-denying darkness.
It is indeed a story of small things and profound truths.
ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER:
Robert Peett has been published in journals in Australia and the UK and researched and wrote an Aviation History, overseeing all aspects of production and publication. He has edited both fiction and non-fiction, including dissertations and reports for business and local government, and even had a stint as a ghostwriter, organising all aspects of the publication.
Robert originally studied Philosophy at University College London, with Post-Graduate work at the London School of Economics. Taught at various levels in a variety of subjects, and is currently mentoring at PhD and BA level, including for Literature and Creative Writing. For many years he worked in the art world, buying and selling works on paper to private collectors and public collections including the Tate and the Hunterian.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF SUNFLOWER:
Cass McMain lives in Albuquerque with her husband, an assortment of cats, two dogs and a couple hundred houseplants. She enjoys gardening and also makes a mean chocolate pie.
Her New Year’s resolution was to get more haircuts.