Technically, there are three novels composed in the Bascombe Novels. First, The Sportswriter, second, Independence Day, and third, The Lay of the Land. I toyed with the idea of reviewing each of these separately, but I read them together and neither book stands above or below the others. So, all together now… The trilogy begins with Frank Bascombe awaking on Easter morning to meet his ex wife in the cemetery where their oldest son, Ralph is buried. During the first novel Frank seems to be hanging by a thread, flitting from one situation to the next, ruminating on the finer points of life and sports-writing. He never refers to his ex wife by her first name, which I found a bit annoying. At times I enjoyed the book because Ford is a talented writer. He has a way of expressing mundane situations and philosophising about them and making them interesting. Don’t want to spoil it all for you, but the novel might end in a bit of a nervous breakdown.
The trilogy continues with and older (wiser?) Frank who is trying to connect with his second son, Paul. Frank has changed careers and is now selling houses. Happily this gives Frank the opportunity to encounter a whole new group of people to theorize with and about. Frank seems to think he has grown as a person. He is now referring to his ex wife by her name, Ann, but she has remarried and his relationships with women do not seem to have evolved. He is ‘seeing’ a woman named, Sally Caldwell, and he bought a hot dog stand(?). In short, he is living life, Bascombe style. Again, Frank rambles around and the novel culminates with Paul having a serious accident.
And our trilogy mercifully ends a few years later. Frank and Sally have since married and separated. Ann’s new husband died, and Frank’s two kids are a collective mess. Frank is still selling houses, but he’s moved and has taken a jr. partner in his ventures. Frank also has cancer. As I am writing the run down of what happened, I am furrowing my brows. When taken all together the whole series is a bit over the top and ridiculous. But while you are reading through the thousands of pages, I assure you, it doesn’t seem QUITE as ridiculous. The biggest problem I had with the book was an instant dislike of the main character, Frank. So three novels narrated by this character didn’t do much for me. I also think the original book showed promise until the nervous breakdown part. After that nothing felt terribly authentic. I kept thinking… no worries, Frank will just have another nervous breakdown, and we’ll move on.
This set of books was long, and not really worth the time I spent reading it.