I just finished reading After, by Francine Prose, which is Prose's first book for young adults. I picked this up from my daughter's bookshelf immediately after finishing one of Prose's novels for an adult audience, A Changed Man.

After concerns itself with the erosion of civil liberties and freedom at a high school after a catastrophe at a neighboring school. The characters in the book are students at a school where nothing disastrous is happening, but the town's adults are not paying enough attention to notice as the school is taken over by a stranger with a repressive agenda.

The students come to see their situation as similar to The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, but the parallels with our current political situation are unmistakable despite being unspecific. It seems to me that Prose has maintained enough universality in her book's setting to allow it to stay fresh for a long time. It may become a classic for today's young audience and those who are not yet young.

A Changed Man is Ms. Prose's latest book, and it is very fine. Her writing captures the inner insecurities of each character - an aged Holocaust survivor, a nervous single mom, her son, a changed man - what they want to say but can't, what they say but wish they had said differently, what they never admit, except to themselves. All the roadblocks between identity and intimacy are portrayed wisely and with a sense of humor that never makes fun of anyone who doesn't deserve it.

I had been on a Robertson Davies jag this past year, and there are strong parallels between Davies' work and Prose's. Intelligence, humor, social observation, family ties, and, above all, a clarity and effortlessness to the writing that is always polished, and never precious.

I've had the good fortune to meet Ms. Prose and she seems very modest and perhaps a little bit shy. This might be a camouflage behind which to observe the world acutely, because she certainly is engaged with people fully. For Francine Prose is able to express those human truths that we only sometimes let show.



Blogger Sean Elder said...

having read, or having tried to read, two of Ms. Prose's books for grownups, I personally think she found the right audience with middle schoolers. For a few years anyway. And her magazine writing is almost always awful. Though I've never had the privilege of meeting her...

Thanks for the OTR post, made me laugh out loud.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Curious Servant said...

I teach at a middle school and I think I'll check out that book.

Thanks for the review!

11:02 PM  

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