“The Typewriter’s Tale” by Michiel Heyns
288 pages (Kindle edition), St. Martin’s Press
Published Feb. 28, 2017 (originally published in 2005 by Jonathan Ball Publishers)
“Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to.”
This is the maxim of celebrated author Henry James and one which his typist Frieda Wroth tries to live up to. Admiring of the great author, she nevertheless feels marginalized and undervalued in her role. But when the dashing Morton Fullerton comes to visit, Frieda finds herself at the center of an intrigue every bit as engrossing as the novels she types, bringing her into conflict with the flamboyant Edith Wharton, and compromising her loyalty to James.
The Typewriter’s Tale by Michiel Heyns is a thought-provoking novel on love, art and life fully lived.
You remember Shari Lewis’ and Lambchop’s “Song that Never Ends”? Well, this is the book that never ends. Seriously, don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s less than 300 pages long. It might as well be “Les Mis,” only it’s way less interesting.
I made it about 58 percent of the way through this book before I fully remembered how boring Henry James’ writing is. This book about Mr. James and his typist is trying way too hard to mimic the style of James himself. It’s rare that I feel like a book is completely wasting my time, but I feel like I’m losing precious minutes of my life trying to finish “The Typewriter’s Tale.” The plot plods along at a snail’s pace and lacks direction. I have no idea what the author is trying to accomplish, nor do I care.
The cover blurb says, “Anyone who loves Henry James will adore this.” That’s great, except I forgot I hate Henry James’ writing. So really, I brought this misery on myself.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Did not finish.
About the author
Michiel Heyns is a South African novelist, translator and literary critic. Until 2003, he was
In 2002 he made his debut as a novelist with the comic coming-of-age story, The Children’s Day. This was followed by another novel of high comedy, The Reluctant Passenger (2003) which has since been translated into French. His subsequent novels have moved away from the South African milieu: The Typewriter’s Tale (2005), which focuses on Theodora Bosanquet, the amanuensis of Henry James, was followed by Bodies Politic (2008), which deals with the English suffrage movement of the turn of the 20th century.
He is also the award-winning translator of Tom Dreyer and Marlene van Niekerk (most famously of her The Way of the Women), and continues to write widely as a literary critic and reviewer.