Kate Christensen: The Epicure's Lament

The Epicure's Lament - Kate Christensen

Although We are set up to disapprove of Hugo, the main character, I would be surprised if any reader really disliked him. He is a self-described hermit who has little patience for other people, even his own family. But really he is charming, impish, subversive, and, most winningly, acutely aware of his own shortcomings. He knows himself, and he is comfortable with who he is and with his quiet life. The book's conflicts and tensions arise when other people in his family join him in his family home and bring their own dramas, chaos, methods, and expectations. But Hugo himself manages to maintain his dignity and his integrity —


— until Christensen steals them from him in a crushing final chapter that I deeply regret having read. I can't believe that after building such a charmingly ornary and contrary character for three hundred pages, Christensen would pull the rug out from under him by undoing his perfect ending, stealing his victory, foiling the plan he has been building since the first chapter, putting him into psychotherapy, quitting him of his cigarettes, setting him up romantically with someone he is not interested in, making him cry over his dead parents, and generally plucking him out of his fascinating and rich life to put him back into the mainstream. Yuck! What a sad ending to an otherwise brave and engrossing book.