three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-SevenTypesSimon’s ex-girlfriend Anna left him years ago and married a superficial stockbroker. Now Simon, a charismatic but depressed out-of-work schoolteacher, wants her back. In a moment of insanity, he kidnaps Anna’s six-year-old son and lands in prison. Perlman tells this story of unrequited love through seven characters, all affected by Simon’s reckless act and related in strange ways: Simon and his psychiatrist; Anna and her husband; a stock analyst; Simon’s lover, a prostitute; and one more. Together, this group’s anxious musings on love, life, and modern times reflect their era’s intellectual and ethical quandaries.
Riverhead. 623 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 157322281X

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a brilliant book, written in the unadorned style of a Raymond Carver, but with the wild metaphysical vision of a Thomas Pynchon. It is that most unusual thing—a novel that is both intellectually fun and spiritually harrowing." Michael Shelden

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"[Perlman] provides a shifting body of rich, ambiguous evidence that forces us to continually assess and reassess, much as we do in life. … Perlman pulls off everything from poignant descriptions of a bourgeois household’s cupboard stuffed with never-used ‘good’ china to erudite rants about the New Economy, from a spot-on portrait of a toxic marriage to a crystalline depiction of new love." Jennifer Reese

Newsweek 4 of 5 Stars
"Some things become clearer, others more opaque, but always the mystery deepens. … Is this a tragicomedy, a potboiler or a finely layered literary novel? Sometimes it’s all three." Malcolm Jones

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"… I’m not sure it would be fair to sum up this novel as an overweening, underedited mess inside of which glimmers a brilliant but self-indulgent talent. … There are traces of Dickens’s range in Perlman and of George Eliot’s generous humanist spirit. No, he’s not there yet." Daphne Merkin

Seattle Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Perlman’s people are so damn miserable: self-involved, repressed, ready to blame anyone but themselves—or, the flip side, damaged saints in modern clothes." Richard Wallace

Critical Summary

Seven Types, a bestseller in Perlman’s native Australia, centers on the consequences of unrequited love. Simon’s psychiatrist’s monologue sets the stage for following narrators, who simultaneously move the story forward, confuse our understanding of events, and bare their souls. The ambitious novel is many things (too many?) at once: a psychodrama, social critique, love story, courtroom drama, and literary thriller. At heart, writes The New York Times Book Review, it invokes a Victorian novel’s exploration of the world through fiction. A disappointing final narrator, some implausible incidents, a self-indulgent tone, and myriad digressions bothered some critics. But in the end, Seven Types offers an illuminating story about the nature of truth.

Also by the Author

Three Dollars (1999 U.S.): Award Star Named Best Book of the Year by the Melbourne newspaper The Age. A 38-year-old family man struggles to maintain his decency in an increasingly demeaning corporate job.