* Lew’s Review … All Our Yesterdays by Robert Parker
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 14, 2012
This is really an extraordinary book. I expected a typical non-memorable crime/thriller story, of which I read many. Instead, here is a brilliantly constructed multi-generational exploration of the very interesting lives of some very flawed people. And does Parker ever make me care about these people!
There was something unusual and very powerful about the structure of the story. It reached what seemed to me could have been the conclusion of a shorter novel about half-way through, at a point when many novels are struggling with that fearsome middle-of-the-book trough. (Since I was reading the book on kindle, I didn’t know how far along I was and thought the story was about to end. When I checked, I learned I was at 48%.) But exactly here Parker gathers up a new burst of writing energy and the story takes off again, with one revelation after another, until the final resolution many worthwhile reading hours away.
Parker’s use of time is also worthy of note, especially for me since he does so successfully what I am struggling to achieve in my own novel-in-progress. You start in the present in Boston, with two people who seem to love each other but are not clear if they can be together. Some cataclysmic event has thrown them into relationship disarray. Then you jump back 70 years, and a young man in Dublin is an IRA terrorist fighting British domination in Ireland. The story emerges in a series of flashbacks, and in the very skillful and emotional revelation of the impact of these past events on the original two lovers, getting ever closer to the present. To say more would reveal too much.
Parker has of course been enormously successful, although I have read only 1-2 of his subsequent crime stories, which I do not remember. Another Goodreads reviewer said Parker never again reached the level of excellence of this early novel that did not have much commercial success. If that is true, what a shame that he was not encouraged to reach harder for the literary excellence that was clearly within his potential.