There is something very attractive about settling down to read the story of a family and getting to know them for a lengthy period of time, as if they were family friends. In the case of Last Hundred Years Trilogy, of which Some Luck is the first novel, a hundred years, no less.
In an era when people don’t seem to have time for anything and everything must be shorter and faster today than it was yesterday, the promise of space and time to see characters and situations develop feels like a welcome luxury.
Jane Smiley’s new novel that starts with the kernel of a young family living in an Iowan farm, has been described as an epic and it is, not only for its large cast of characters (no big figures, no huge names, just people like you and me), but for its breadth, spread and ambition. Some Luck follows several generations of the same family (and they keep coming) through their lives and that of their country and the world. The novel is marvellously democratic, with no hierarchy of voices or experiences, and the same space is given to a toddler trying to understand the world around him and the functioning of his own body than to somebody drawing their last breath.
Readers get to know the many characters from inside, in a non-judgemental way, as you accompany them through their lives in their own heads, and you might like them and agree with them more or less, but you come to accept them as they are.
The book reminded me of a recent and wonderful movie Boyhood although the novel’s reach is greater but the feeling of peace and reflexivity you experience is similar.
The author’s ability to use brief but descriptive language, and combine it with extremely subjective, stream-of-consciousness passages, and quasi poetic everyday wisdom (and philosophy) creates a beautifully textured patchwork of a novel. If maybe the dimensions of the canvas are smaller, this could be the War and Peace of this generation.
This is a novel that moves at a sedate and calm pace, made of little moments and small steps; in summary, a novel about the things that really make life what it is. Extraordinary in its everydayness. I hope to meet the family (that has become mine as well) again very soon.