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Port Mungo by Patrick McGrath

Port Mungo (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Patrick McGrath

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228450,815 (3.48)5
Title:Port Mungo
Authors:Patrick McGrath
Info:Vintage (2005), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Port Mungo by Patrick McGrath (2004)



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It's a book where, say, a woman might walk toward her lover for what looks like it will be a scene of tender reconciliation, and instead slashes his hand open with a hidden razor blade...after which the maid, of course, comes in quietly to wipe up the blood.

That's Port Mungo in a nutshell. Random acts of decorum are followed by random acts of mayhem, over and over again, and all of it is told to us by a narrator who knows how to deploy anadiplosis and antistrophe and aporia to their most effective degree--one sentence after another of rhetorical perfection, a narrative voice that makes the weirdness of the story itself all the more unsettling. It's a hermetically sealed story, perfectly told, where any relationship to a separate reality from the story is completely beside the point. It didn't teach me anything. It didn't strive for greater meaning. It was just a great read--complete and hysterical fun, made all the more fun by its glorious prose. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
A thoroughly engaging work of fiction, ranging through the psychological struggles of becoming an artist, set in Europe, New York,and ultimately in British Honduras, and pressured by the dichotomy of family relationship of brother and sister. This is an inside look at what the artist deals with, even though the world may not value the results. What turns this novel into a wild ride is the passion and the pain, the matching of talent in a steamy, torrid love affair, and the realization, at the end, this may indeed be an unreliable narrator in the death that provides the binding thread. Absolutely loved it and couldn't put it down.
  helenscribe | Dec 26, 2013 |
Patrick McGrath is master of the unreliable narrator. His skill is applied with precision and deliberation. Even though I know Gin is unreliable, her judgment and opinions to be taken with the mightiest grain of salt, he eventually lulls me into complacence. I fall under a spell of sorts and frame my perceptions to align with Gin’s; no matter that I know better. And in the end, when McGrath pulls the curtain back to reveal the truth I knew was there all along, I’m still astonished. I also know and love McGrath’s adept use of foreshadowing and I shouldn’t be surprised by anything that happens, but yet I am.

This is my fifth McGrath novel and even though his style pervades, he manages to create widely diverse situations and characters. This time we have a couple of ill-fated lovers who indulge in a very 1950s style of bohemian living. Typical enough, but the circumstances are tilted and the narrator of their story definitely biased. She is willfully blind to her brother Jack’s faults. She willfully scandalizes Vera, his lover and mother of his children. She willfully aggrandizes his art and his calling. He is the perfect father and brother at all times. Even his faults are made magnificent and part of his higher calling. We know this cannot be true, but still, McGrath makes it all seem so reasonable. So right.

The descriptions of life in the wretched Port Mungo are shrouded by the mists of time and distance. We weren’t there. Our narrator wasn’t either, but yet we find the expected truth of what we’re told comforting. Of course Jack is an exile; he wants perfection and won’t settle for anything less. Artistic credibility and integrity are noble pursuits indeed. Vera’s abandonment of him and their daughters is almost on cue. We expect it and raise Jack even higher in our esteem in the face of her cowardice and selfishness.

But then the cracks appear. Why did Jack so easily let Anna, his surviving daughter, go to his proper, upstanding brother Gerald? This in the face of the zeal with which he persevered as Peg’s father; his martyrly devotion to show up Vera’s shortcomings so starkly. Why has his return to the New York art scene been so tepid and lackluster? Why has Vera continued to fall back into his life with such unexpected regularity? Why does Anna display behavior so contrary to her Sussex upbringing? The façade crumbles and reality is bathed in the full light of Vera’s scorn and Gin’s disbelief. Very well done and an intriguing, hypnotic tale. The Rathbone Curse indeed. ( )
  Bookmarque | Mar 19, 2009 |
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When he first came back to New York, and that would be twenty years ago now; my brother Jack was in a kind of stupor, for it was shortly after the death of his daughter Peg.
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Book description
A complex array of obsessions runs through the various members and generations of a family from the mid-fifties in London to the late nineties in Manhattan, with a crucial interlude in Port Mungo, a seedy town in the mangrove swamps along the Gulf of Honduras. (ARC)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0747574154, Paperback)

Throughout their privileged but highly eccentric childhood Jack Rathbone has enjoyed the constant adoration of his sister Gin. When both attend art school in London, Jack plunges into a passionate affair with Vera Savage, a painter some years his senior, and they soon run away to New York. From a bruised and bereft distance Gin follows their southward progress to Miami, then Havana, and so to Port Mungo, a wilting swamp town on the steamy Gulf of Honduras. There Jack devotes himself to his art, and works with a fervour as intense as the restless, boozy waywardness to which Vera succumbs, which even the birth of two daughters cannot subdue. As the tension builds, a tragedy occurs that will tear apart not only their world but that of Jack's watchful sister, Gin.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:50 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Pained to see her brother, Jack, fall under the spell of a flamboyant painter, Gin tracks their journeys and eventually shares her Greenwich Village home with them when their waywardness results in the neglect of their two daughters.

(summary from another edition)

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