I finished reading Sigrid Nunez’s novel “The Last of Her Kind” and promised you I’d report back. It WAS good – definitely worth a read for anyone who wishes to understand some of the political tumult afoot in the 60s. It was also a superb character study of two very different women – the narrator and her college roommate, the aforementioned “last of her kind” who was such an iconclast. Despite Ann’s iconclasm she was a believable charater, as was her roommate, Georgette. Georgette’s drug-addicted, mentally ill younger sister was also believable but some of the supporting ‘cast’, especially Ann’s patrician parents seemed a bit one-dimensional.
The book focuse on just one aspect of the 60s tumult – the black liberation movement, ignoring what I felt were very major themes of that era, particularly the antiwar movement. I asked a friend of mine, who, like me, was young during that era what his take at the time was on Martin Luther King and he said that Vietnam so overshadowed all the other tumult that it was hard to zero in on it.
So as a novel, the author has the ‘right’ to focus on just one issue and I know that many of my contemporaries were primarily focused on one of the many things going on simultaneously then (antiwar, women’s liberation, black liberation, gay liberation, environmentalism, back to the land, alternative health – just to name a few – yes, that time WAS the birthplace of MUCH change). But I felt the author could have at least given a nod to the many other things happening, as the novel was set on a college campus in 1968 (the beginning of it) and surely everyone there would have been affected by at least the antiwar movement and given it was a women’s college, the birth of the new era of feminism.
I also felt the ending was a little flat.
But lest you think I changed my mind and didn’t like the book, that’s not the case. It’s just that it was such a hard era to summarize. So, as I said in my earlier review, Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg remains my favorite ‘hippie novel’ of the era and this one will take the ‘political novel’ prize – at least for now.
All in all – recommended! For those of us who were there – to get another look at what were truly remarkable times. And for younger readers, to get a bit of ‘what the commotion was all about’ – despite my gen’s slogans it was NOT just “sex, and drugs and rock and roll”.