When one man’s obsession with a legendary H.P. Lovecraft text drives him to suicide, his wife follows in his footsteps in an attempt to understand the man she thought she knew. This is the premise of The Night Ocean, Paul La Farge‘s latest novel, but the narrative seems to get lost somewhere along the path.
It’s hard to shake the notion that La Farge may have begun writing The Night Ocean as a fictionalized account of Lovecraft’s life, into which he shoehorned Charlie and Marina at a later date. Indeed, La Farge’s novel would likely have worked better as a piece of Lovecraft fanfiction, and would have fit right in with recent books like The Ballad of Black Tom and Lovecraft Country. As it stands, however, The Night Ocean leaves readers adrift and aimless in the doldrums.
A novel purporting to use one of Lovecraft’s favorite tropes — Go Mad from the Revelation — as the result of reading too much Lovecraft should, in all honesty, be an easy-to-love book for eldritch abomination fans like this reviewer. Although it employs plenty of Lovecraftian mischief, The Night Ocean fumbles. What begins with a woman’s re-tracing of her husband’s fateful journey soon descends into an overly long excerpt from Lovecraft apocrypha, before morphing into the re-telling of said work, debrided of poetic license. At which point, the reader is so far removed from the original story frame that she no longer cares to find out what happened to Charlie, and the dry fictionalization of Lovecraft’s life is not gripping enough to sustain her interest.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
Read all my reviews and follow me on Goodreads!
Image credit: Catch Central Florida