Condominium, by John D MacDonald

An engineer who's retired to Florida takes a close look at how the condominiums have been built in a new development on the coast and suspects that they're not built strong enough to tolerate the kind of storms that could come ashore. But there's not a lot of incentive for people to take him seriously: everyone makes good money as a result of the boom in retirement property.

I'd read this some time ago and remembered it being good, and it was. The story is a bit soap-opera like - I guess maybe a bit like "Hotel", with a large cast of characters who each have their own story. Underlying the whole book are some "big" themes: lack of respect for environment/ecology; financial corruption on the part of the developers, and retirees wondering what it means to no longer have a role in society.

But all the characters are believable, and it's quite striking when, towards the end of the book, you see what happens to them all and you realise how many there are. This in particular impressed me:

As she reached to put her fingertips against it, the plate glass blew inward...The explosion of wind and shards of glass blew her back across the room, smashing her lower spine against the dressing table. When she fell, spraying blood from a dozen slashes, it pushed her half under the dressing table. When Greg Mckay sprang from the bed, the wind knocked him down. He crawled to her and she looked up at him in a mildly puzzled way before her eyes hazed over and she was gone, all her cleverness and tricks, all her tics and habits, all her sales charm and her hungers, gone like a candle puffed out like a casual giant.
The woman in question has a fairly substantial back-story and so it's impressive that he's happy to kill her off - but the way he does it is good too: no poignant last thoughts or speech, no dragging it out: she's just gone. And the cleverness, tricks, tics and habits are all parts of her life that he invented and made you believe. And this is only one character.

There was a fair bit of Travis style philosophising too - some of this was very good I thought, and so while this may not be great literature it's a long way from being pulpish.

A really good read.

Completed : 31-Oct-2010

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