Star rating - 8/10
I hadn't heard of James Salter until the reviews for his latest novel came out, and after hearing the praise being heaped on him, I felt that I may be missing out on an American literary giant of whom I had been blissfully unaware. So before I tackled this latest book All That Is, I quickly made up for lost time and checked out one of his earlier rated works from 1975, Light Years.
To say I was awe inspired by the beauty of the writing would be an understatement. There was not so much in the way of intricate plot, but his writing made me want to linger in each carefully constructed paragraph, and gently follow his characters along their lives in a gorgeously described journey. So I picked up All That Is with great expectations, so to speak.
And although the power of the description used here is not so immediately striking, it is nevertheless another great book, which deals with similar themes - relationships, longing, desire, and lives lived. Philip Bowman is a young naval officer at sea off Japan when we first meet him, and his second world wartime experiences shape his post war life. He finds success relatively easily, in his white, middle class American milieu, both professionally, and romantically. But his romantic path doesn't run so smoothly, as he settles down to life as a literary editor.
As with his earlier work, the plot just slides along without any majorly dramatic moments, but the effect on the reader of the small interchanges and events is rather like a snowball. It is slightly annoying the way Bowman can find a seemingly never ending succession of beautiful and intelligent women to entangle himself with, without really putting much effort into the search. On the other hand some men of his ilk seem to find themselves living exactly that pattern. And Bowman finds out that easily discovered relationships don't necessarily lead to happiness.
Salter demonstrates again with this novel just what a dazzling brilliant writer he is - and like his characters, he seems to put little effort into the words on the page, allowing them to glide along at their own pace, but behind the smooth facade is obviously a gigantic genius effort at work, creating a beautiful and brilliant book that stays with you long after the reading of it is over.