The Weekend by Peter Cameron

September 3, 2007 at 2:56 pm (fiction, literature, novels, queer interest)

The Weekend is a relatively simple story full of complicated relationships. Lyle, a controversial art critic, receives an invitation to spend the weekend in upstate New York with his old friends John and Marian Kerr on the one year anniversary of his lover Tony’s death. The Kerrs’ have invited a rich intellectual named Laura for dinner one evening, hoping her love and knowledge of art will pique Lyle’s interest and keep him from dwelling on the sadness of the occasion. But everyone is surprised when Lyle shows up with his new and significantly younger lover, Robert. Thus begins a tense outing and a story that never quite reaches its potential.

Though my problems with the book are few they were large enough to prevent me from truly losing myself in this novel. My biggest qualm is with the characters themselves, all of whom are cold, elitist, defensive, and withholding. Since they all possess the same character flaws not a single one of them stands out. Rather, they all meld into one another, each losing whatever distinguishing characteristics they might have. It’s not exciting to read a novel in which five of the primary characters all deal with the same problems in the same ways. By doing this Cameron has missed a great opportunity to examine the grieving process from numerous perspectives.

Most of the back story revolving around Lyle and Tony is related through dialogue. This choice poses problems for two reasons: 1) it makes all of the characters, even those who The Weekend by Peter Cameronhave known one another for years, sound so uninformed they border on naive. For instance, John and Marian often ask Lyle questions that they as his lifelong friends should already know the answers to. And 2) it makes the dialogue predictable. Almost all the dialogue follows the same Q & A format with one person doing all the talking and the other doing all the asking.  Not only does this rob characters of their individual voices, but it makes conversation uniform. In this case the writing axiom “show, don’t tell” should have been more closely heeded.

However, Cameron is a good writer. His prose are clear, quick, and concise and at no point did I want to put the book down. He does a fabulous job of building tension. Though the characters all deal with the same internal conflicts, their decision to keep those conflicts bottled up throughout the story allows the reader to live in anticipation of the scene where they are all revealed. By keeping the protagonists just a degree or two below boiling Peterson lures the reader through page after page with great speed.

Unfortunately, the final pages are a disappointment. Cameron doesn’t bother to tie up any of the loose ends created by the climax which leaves the reader feeling deflated. While not without charm, the negative aspects of The Weekend outweigh the positives. Pass on this one.

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