Faber & Faber, 2011
This quasi-novel (quasi-memoir?) is written from the point of view of the writer Benjamin Markovits. With the real Markovits they share many biographical points, from his wife Caroline and children to the authorship of several novels. Childish Loves, it turns out, closes the trilogy, the first two of which were written by, of course, the real Markovits. But in this novel, the real authorship of these books belongs to Peter Sullivan. Two novel about the life of Lord Byron had been written by a private school teacher Sullivan, but during his lifetime his manuscripts were not published, and before his suicide Sullivan sent two complete unfinished manuscripts and a third to his former colleague Markowits in the hope of publication, because Markovits published several books himself.
Markovits character is Sullivan’s literary executor. After reading the two manuscripts, Markovits finds novels about Byron strange but strong and ready to see the publication. Markovits sends the manuscripts to his editor, and soon some publishing house releases a novel, the first, and then the second.
Markovits plays in this novel with reality and does it very skillfully. Conventional, as it seems, memoir of how a book is written, disguises as pseudonovel with "Benjamin Markovits" the character, but when this pseudonovel breaks out of the shell, inside it is the novel with a different protagonist, also a writer, who hides under the guise of a third writer, Byron, and he is not the original as well, but also a fictional character, as his diaries are just something like a novel simulation. Does this play with reality prevent the reader from the joy of reading? Not one bit.
Markovits is an experienced writer, able to control the situation. If he built a complex structure for the novel, he would do so that this structure would hold. Metaphysics of the book is that ordinary logic does not apply here. What is important is Markovits tells seemingly complicated story so with graceful and intelligible style that everything is transparent. It will not confuse even the most inexperienced reader.
Usually, if the main character in the book is a writer, then you can expect an endless stream of complaints about life or something like that. In Childish Loves there is minimum of whining, since the writer Markovits here is researcher, archivist, as first, and only then a writer, as second. Therefore, those who need plot in their reading will necessarily be satisfied: plenty of action in the book, there is a change of scenery, there is a mystery, of the man and the book.
But if part of the novel, written about "Markovits", is almost flawless, the insertion of Byron's diaries seem artificial. Fictional diaries written by Byron suffer haste, and characters abound, too numerous, many of them play cameo roles. The style of the diaries is easy, and because of this it is clear that they are written in our time, not in the XIX century. The diaries here is optional appendage, the more to that that you do not empathize to Byron, he is the hero of the episode, not a full-fledged personality.
Definitely it is worth reading novel, stylishly written and extraordinary constructed.