The Last Talk with Lola Faye
Posted by: Gary Niebuhr
I have been a champion of the writing of Thomas H. Cook who I believe to be one of the best historical writers, one of the best regional writers, one of the best psychological profilers, etc. etc.
So it was with great enthusiasm that I reached for the brand new Cook novel, The Last Talk with Lola Faye. The basic plot is that a history professor named Lucas Paige, who fled the small town of Glenville, Alabama, to go to Harvard, has had a lukewarm life. Now on the lecture tour for a new book, he is not enjoying himself amongst the great unwashed in St. Louis, Missouri. From out of the meager crowd steps a woman who reveals herself to be Lola Faye, the femme fatale from his youth who had an affair with his father that led to the man’s murder.
Very reluctantly, Lucas gets roped into having a drink with Lola and the tale begins. The entire novel is made up of either the discussion between these two held over a few hours one night or the backward-looking remembrances of Lucas. Along the way, revelations are made about the characters and the truth is revealed about what happened long ago in Glenville.
I read the whole book for one reason: I am a Thomas H. Cook reader. While I have no arguments with the literary merits of the book nor the characters in it, I found myself irritated by the style. The use of a running conversation and the manipulation of time through the thoughts of Lucas wore me down after awhile. I was compelled to keep reading to find out what happened but was almost mad at myself for doing it.
When done, I ran to the Booklist review to see what someone else thought of the book. Then I checked other professional reviews. Then, in desperation, I even checked the Amazon customer reviews.
The reviews revealed some things about the book but did not really answer my questions.
Is it me? Was I supposed to feel this way about the book? Did I miss something in the narrative that would help me understand it better? Does being mad at a book mean I did not enjoy it? Did the author manipulate me to feel this way?
What I need is a book discussion to figure this all out. If you have one, invite me.