Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Book Review: The Wheel of Fortune

A Fair Trade Book


Title: Wheel of Fortune (Volume 1)

Author: Susan Howatch

Date: 1984

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: none

Length: 470 pages

Quote: “My parents...didn't stick to the rules, you see...and in breaking the rules they were both destroyed.”

As if 470 pages weren't enough, this novel promised to be the first in a series. (Actually, there were two volumes.) Do you want to read the series? Do you want to read volume one? I'll put it this way: I did not, even on a dime-a-dozen sale, buy The Wheel of Fortune. Someone else did. Reading it for you, I was bored witless. You, however, might not be.

As a series The Wheel of Fortune is supposed to be about how several generations of a rich British family endure the rises and falls of fortune throughout the twentieth century, rather than merely about adultery and murder. However, Howatch has (one hopes) invented a family in which everyone commits adultery and some commit murder.

The saga begins with Robert, the eldest son, infatuated with his first cousin Ginevra, whom his father is molesting. Robert's grandfather was basically homosexual, alcoholic, and abusive; his grandmother was put in a “lunatic asylum” for conspiring to help bring his grandfather's miserable life to a merciful end. Ginevra seems more sinned against than sinning but thoroughly unheroic. Robert and Ginevra eventually produce a son who may be meant to be understood, charitably, as brain-damaged. Robert also has a brother John, the allegedly handsome one, who has his own story of being miserably uptight with women of his own social class and joyously self-indulgent with a working-class woman. This brings us from 1913 to 1928.


For me, 470 pages and fifteen fictional years with these people is too much. I laid volume one aside thinking that John's story was the ickiest, but then remembered how easy Robert was to hate and how there was nothing to like about Ginevra either...the person who sent me volume one didn't want to bother with volume two, and neither did I. If, however, you like those TV “soap operas” where good-looking but unlovable people just keep on doing stupid things to mess up their lives, then you'd probably enjoy The Wheel of Fortune.

It's a Fair Trade Book: when you buy it here, you send $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to the appropriate address, and we send $1 per book (or, in this case, volume of the two-book set) to Susan Howatch or a charity of her choice. For volume one you'd send a U.S. postal money order for $10 to P.O. Box 322, or a Paypal payment of $11 to the address you'd get by e-mailing salolianigodagewi, as shown at the very bottom of the screen. For both volumes, you'd send $15 or $16, and Howatch or her charity would get $2.