Hi everyone! So this week I’m reviewing Nell Zink’s latest novel Doxology. Taking place in New York, the novel focuses on two generations of the same family, with 9/11 splitting the book into halves. We first follow couple Pam and Dan who, along with friend Joe, start a band. We then switch to Flora, Pam and Dan’s daughter, after 9/11; she is an environmental activist and member of the Green Party.
Zink’s writing style is very distinctive; combining the mundane with the downright weird. I enjoyed it as it felt unique compared to other books I had been reading at the same time. Her style also lends itself well to the absurdity of events within the book; particularly in the latter half. But I can understand why her writing may not be for everyone.
Zink flits between different characters, most notably Pam, Dan, and Flora, and changes her writing to match their personalities, which worked very well. It gave a greater sense of them as people and how they view the world. Out of all of them I preferred reading about Flora rather than her parents. This can be simply put down to that I’m closer to her age and the events she’s mentioning I obviously remember (ie Trump’s election campaign – though I wish I didn’t). There are references to Trump and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein so a knowledge of American politics is probably needed to fully ‘get’ the novel. There are a couple of times I don’t think Zink went far enough into exploring the policies and mentalities of these political figures, particularly Stein. I would have liked more insight perhaps.
Pam and Dan, meanwhile, are not bad characters. They’re not poorly written or have no depth. I just struggled to connect to them and the world of musical counterculture. It is simply down to my ignorance of US music at that period rather than Zink. Her writing was always engaging yet their storyline did feel a bit of a slog.
Would I recommend Doxology? If you’re a fan of multi-generational narratives or indeed Zink herself, then yes. Her writing style might put some readers off (I’ve seen it labelled ‘wacky’ and ‘pretentious’ through my brief research of some of her other work) but I liked it. It was different from what I usually read and worked with the plot. A knowledge of US culture from the 1990s to present day would certainly help when reading, which is probably my downfall. But I’m certainly interested to see what her next book will be about.
Doxology is published by Fourth Estate and you can find more information here.