Anna Quindlen, Black and Blue

I picked this novel up in the library because I have been reading Quindlen’s How Reading Changed My Life (as part of my exploration of the genre of ‘books about books for actual readers’) and mostly enjoying it. It’s a gripping novel but I thought it was also manipulative, in the way We Need to Talk About Kevin is manipulative, that is, you are carried along by a fearful prurience about how bad it might get before it’s over. As a dramatization of domestic violence, it’s very effective, and its realistic assessment of Fran’s vulnerabilities, especially as a cop’s wife, was enraging, but she and the other characters never seemed particularly complex, and the analysis of her motives for both staying and leaving carried no surprises. Maybe the most poignant part, for me, anyway, was the portrayal of her son’s struggle to reconcile his mother’s experience with his own loyalty to his father. For lots of reasons, I would have preferred a different ending, but I have a strict ‘no spoilers’ policy so I won’t discuss that issue any further…

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