Monday, May 17, 2010
Siam by Lily Tuck
A slender novel that stays almost entirely in scene, covering the time that a young wife lives in "Siam" with her mysteriously employed husband during the Vietnam War... the novel is fairly episodic, rotating between moments of the wife taking language lessons, visiting tourist sites with other wives, going to the dressmaker, watching her husband swim, having conflicts with her staff... and while those events are all united by their impact on the protagonist (and on her central conflict, adjusting--or not--to her new home), Tuck interestingly uses an exterior storyline to act against the episodic nature of her plot. At the start of the novel, the wife meets a high society American who disappears days later. And while his disappearance is not of any direct impact on her, it becomes a main event that holds the whole novel together--and which she obsesses about. So it works as a kind of skeleton to the novel despite the fact that the drama of it (kidnapping! murder!) are exterior to the central events of the protagonist's plot. In this case, the skeleton does more to shade the novel's tone and theme than it does to actually change the protagonist.