A brillant historical recreation
The greatest review I can offer to an author, I grant to Dominic Brieter: I learned volumes about writing from reading his novel. In particular, he demonstrated vividly how to develop characters and to an insightful depth. (Not to mention, his research was flawless.) South of Hollywood is driven by named and groups of unnamed characters. I could easily see, touch, taste and smell the scenes to my delight and disgust. Even at the places where I had no point of reference to the period or culture, I could easily sense the drama.
Read the story now
At some point I gave up trying to determine a story arc for a protagonist who was equally an antagonist, ending up just as base a person as he intended to become in the prologues, albeit a “successful one” in the end, by his standard and in the grip of his culture. The protagonist, Iggo, stared into the abyss with the expected outcome.
Of the characters, the protagonist’s sister, Aurora, impressed me the most, acting principled despite her inescapable station in life—if existentialism carries any philosophical validity.
Existence before essence, the impotence of reason, estrangement from God, the anxiety produced by self-created moral systems, the inability to find lasting inherent value, all, left her, and the others with nothingness hanging overhead—an all to believable lie. This is my interpretation of South of Hollywood.
From a technical point of view, there are excessively long paragraphs and an occasional dependence on passive language in the narration early in the book, which dissipates as the novel progresses. I often found my self trying to carve the paragraphs up mentally into bit size chunks. The shifts in the POV, although necessary for a character driven experience, slowed me down to put on various sets of shoes to walk in.
This book will no doubt find a recognized place in the hallows of literature. I struggle to find any artist’s work with a similar signature, a true, large print, John Hancock—a declaration that need not be read with spectacles and written in defiance of judgment.