In his most recent novel, I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, Brian Hall won acclaim for the way he used the intimate, revelatory voice of fiction to capture the half-hidden personal stories of the Lewis and Clark expedition. In his new novel Hall turns to the life of Robert Frost, arguably Americas most well-known poet. Frost, as both man and artist, was toughened by a hard life. His own father died when Frost was eleven; his only sibling, a sister, had to be institutionalized; of his five children, one died before the age of four, one committed suicide, one went insane, and one died in childbirth.
Told in short chapters, each of which presents an emblematic incident with intensity and immediacy, Halls novel deftly weaves together the earlier parts of Frosts life with his final year, 1962, when, at age eighty- eight, and under the looming threat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he made a visit to Russia and met with Khrushchev.
As Hall shows, Frost determined early on that he would not succumb to the tragedies life threw at him. The deaths of his children were forms of his own death from which he resurrected himself through poetryfor him, the preeminent symbol of mans form-giving power.
A searing, exquisitely constructed portrait of one mans rages, guilt, paranoia, and sheer, defiant persistence, as well as an exploration of why good people suffer unjustly and how art is born from that unanswerable question, Fall of Frost is a magnificent work that further confirms Halls status as one of the most talented novelists at work today.
Is it too early to crown the best novel of 2008? It's hard to imagine that in the nine months remaining in this year I will glean more pleasure from a book than I did from Fall of Frost.
This is a novel that works on every possible level. For its too-short duration, I was completely immersed in its world, the emotional landscape of Robert Frost. Yet I also read it with enough critical distance to marvel, open-mouthed, at the skill with which Brian Hall constructed the book. Fall of Frost is a character study in the deepest sense, a spelunking into the psychological ferment behind Frost's poems. And it is simultaneously an extremely sophisticated meditation on literary form: a novel about poetry which is itself built like a series of exploded and distended poems; an exploration of the writing process that arises from sensitive readings of Frost's work; a fictionalized biography which puts the artificiality of its own method on display (making it an implicit antidote to this tiresome era of the false memoir). And to think that Hall did all this with one hand tied behind his back, prevented by the Frost estate from reprinting any of the poet's later work. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune - Katherine Bailey
[B]rilliant novel ... Hall finds the underside of Frost's public life fascinating. He cleverly crafts internal dialogue and conversation attached to real-life occurrences, and consistently conveys sympathy for a talented man whose life was crowded with tragedy.
[Hall] brings a startling immediacy to a complex figure many know only as the author of classics like The Road Not Taken.
A rich, contemplative and rewarding exercise in the biographical novel.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Gail Fine Book I really enjoyed reading this book. I feel that I know so much about Robert Frost now the way he lived, thought. I hope they make a a movie based on this book.
By the end of his long life, Robert Frost was the
éminence grise of American letters, a man whose legend
preceded him and who often collaborated in promulgating that
legend. Yet Brian Hall depicts a Robert Frost who is
distinctly more complex than the one most of us encountered
in high school, that "simple rustic," that plain-spoken New
Englander who extolled the virtues of rural life. Consider
these infrequently mentioned details of the Frost mythos:
The bard of rural New England was, in fact, born in
San Francisco and raised there until age eleven, when
his father died. His father had requested to be buried
in his hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and his
mother resettled there with Frost and his sister after
honoring that last wish.
Frost was a terrible farmer. He did seem to enjoy
raising chickens, but he was afraid of cows and erratic...
"Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering and precise; the revelations are subtle but never muted when they come, and the careful telling carries the breath of suspense....Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become her second classic."
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