“Light Years” by James Salter (1975) – book review

Far from a “ten from Len” it’s more like a “three from me” I’m sad to report. I had great hopes and overworked anticipation when we chose this book for the January book group read at the beginning of this year – the French are quite besotted with this author, and a number of his works in translation line the best selling bookshelves at our giant Fnac shops over here. I think it has to be me who’s missing the magic, for fans of James Salter rate his work very highly (over 50% of the reviews on Amazon give this book 5 stars), and he is hailed as ‘the greatest wordsmith in America’ by some, so am saddened not to share this opinion.

I found this a difficult story to read and above all to enjoy : the writing style seemed heavily visual and pretentious, the characters’ lives seemed precious, narcissistic and unconvincing. The main couple come across as self-indulgent and I couldn’t help but feel indignant that they were somewhat abusing their lives of privilege.

I wanted to like it, and we had an extremely lengthy and fascinating debate on the issues the book raises at the book group meeting, but this one did rather pass me by, sadly. I don’t feel madly tempted to give another James Salter book a try, but maybe someone can recommend another one of his novels to enable me to join the fan group?

Read in January 2015.

Rated : 3/10

Image taken from here.
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9 Responses to “Light Years” by James Salter (1975) – book review

  1. Megan says:

    I agree his writing style is hard to get into (like Hemingway). I haven’t read “Light Years” but I really like “A Sport and a Pastime”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Book Group I – Paris Evening Group | Literary ramblings etc

  3. Monique says:

    Have just started reading “All That Is” which was a present given to me by a friend after the raving French critics last year… so far it’s ok although not at all what I would have chosen to read under normal circumstances. Will report back when finished!x

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  4. James S is adored unequivocally by many French friends, it seems, and his books commandeer a lot of space at Fnac every time I go in there, so every now and then I think I should try another novel to see if it was me who missed the boat…but I have so many others to tackle that not sure when this might be – counting on you to report back on “All That Is”!!!

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  5. Monique says:

    Nearly finished it, and would not qualify it as “magnificent” or “exquisite” or even “spellbinding”. Found it a bit hard going, constantly putting it aside and coming back to it, having forgotten about the various characters, could not really relate to the main character and his état d’âme, felt it was a succession of vignettes about this one person and his different girlfriends/wives…did not touch me. Would give the book a 5 or 6.

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    • Better than a 3/10 though!

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      • Monique says:

        Finished it today and the rating has gone down to a 4 on the last 50 pages. Having an affair with the 20 year old daughter of his ex lover, when he had been a sort of a father figure to the girl when she was 15?? doesn’t work in my books, and not because I am prude. Sorry this is about “All That Is” and not “Light Years” but was so mad at the writer had to tell you! x

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  6. Oh dear, can feel the steam flying out from between your ears as you write! He definitely divides the crowds – on Good Reads he either gets a blazing 5 out of 5, or scores very low; there’s not much in between. I’m not feeling the urge to read any more Salter for the time being, but I am still a bit intrigued by him, so maybe further down the road will have a go at another one (but probably not ATI now!). x

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