DISTURBANCES IN THE FIELD by Lynn Sharon Schwartz
“I remembered that quote . . . from Epictetus. ‘Everything has two handles, one by which it may be borne, the other by which it may not.’ “
Review by Bonnie Brody (SEP 27, 2009)
Disturbances in the Field is a deep novel and book of philosophy in one. It opens up very slowly, developing characterization and heading very slowly towards a tragedy. What, you might ask, is a disturbance in the field? The field is the entire environment that we experience. Any occurrence which changes the equilibrium of the environment is a disturbance in the field. The field is then in disequilibrium until it achieves a new balance. This is one of the reasons that this book develops very slowly – – it describes the field and all of its elements.
The book begins with a group of close-knit students at Barnard College: Lydia, Esther, Nina, and Gaby. Their friendships are one of those rare ones that last their entire lives. Together they take philosophy classes and study the pre-Socratics, Aristotle, Plato, Dante, Sartre, and others. The philosophers and their beliefs are discussed among them as they try to interpret their lives. Lydia narrates the book and the book is written on two different planes – – that of the intellect and that of the heart.
The women finish college and begin their lives as independent people. Lydia, Gaby and Esther marry while Nina remains single. They are close friends with some male college friends as well. George is a psychotherapist who has slept with all of the women. Victor is an artist who marries Lydia and together they have four children. Gaby gives up her dance career to marry Don, an Orthopedist, and they have two children. Esther marries twice, both times to unsuitable men. Nina has a number of serial monogamous relationships. As the years pass they try to understand the meaning of their lives while dealing with their heartfelt emotions. Their lives intersect in many ways as their relationships endure through the years.
It is difficult to review this book without spoilers. The author carefully and methodically draws out each character as perceived by Lydia. The reader reaches a point where she feels like she knows each and every one of the characters like a trompe l’oeil painting. We know that the book is building up to something very major and tragic but there is no hint of what it is or when it will come. When it does come, everything is changed.
The writing is superb, not a word wasted. This is a book of the mind and the heart. It makes the reader think and cry. The author has created a major piece of work with this book, one that has enriched me in the reading.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 35 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Counterpoint (May 31, 2005)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||Not Yet|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Lynn Sharon Schwarz|
|EXTRAS:||No excerpt or reading guide for this book — but a few people are rediscovering it and raving about it|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||More great reads:Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer
In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld
- Rough Strife (1980)
- Balancing Acts (1981)
- Disturbances in the Field (1983)
- Acquainted With the Night: Stories (1984)
- The Melting Pot and Other Subversive Stories (1987)
- Leaving Brooklyn (1989; 2007)
- In the Family Way: An Urban Comedy (1999)
- The Fatigue Artist (1995)
- Referred Pain and Other Stories (2004)
- The Writing on the Wall (2005)
- Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books (1996)
- Face to Face: A Reader in the World (2000)
- Not Now, Voyager: A Memoir (March 2009)