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Cameron Hill by Martin Flavin
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Cameron Hill

by Martin Flavin

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If Martin Flavin is remembered at all, it is for his rags-to-riches novel Journey in the Dark, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Critics regard his novels as flawed minor entertainments, though with some compelling elements. For example, he excelled at characterization and dialogue (he was, first and foremost, a playwright). Cameron Hill, his last novel, falls within this category. Cameron Bradley is born into affluence and comfort, but is unable to overcome his father's early death and a controlling mother (an emotional vampire who plays on her son's guilt at abandoning her and his lingering sense of family duty). In his early 20s, just before entering medical school, he marries impulsively, in haughty defiance of his mother's expectations, but then allows a childish craving for his mother's approval to sabotage the marriage. This is typical of his behaviour throughout the novel, which is told mostly in flashback years after he has flunked out of school and in the immediate aftermath of a senseless murder he has committed. Cameron marries a second time, into a wealthy family, but this relationship fizzles as well for much the same reason. The novel begins with a police detective investigating the murder, and we fully expect this element to be resolved at the end. When it isn't, we're left wondering if the author lost interest in his story. This is unfortunate because much of the narrative describing the dissolution of Cameron's first marriage is compelling. If nothing else, Cameron Hill provides an engrossing critique of the soul destroying blandness of suburban America and the pursuit of wealth. John Cheever did it better, though, with more subtlety and humour. ( )
  icolford | Nov 27, 2011 |
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