I had read the novel The Gold Coast quite a few years ago and it wasn’t particularly memorable, except that even today I remember the witticism that peppered the story throughout. So I picked up The Gatehouse, its sequel, from the local library out of curiosity even though its hefty size rather daunted me. I’ve decided to review them together because they seem rather unfinished without each other, particularly The Gold Coast, and the narrative in the sequel is constantly sprinkled with references to the first novel, making it hard to ignore.
In order to write this review, I went through the first book, The Gold Coast, again. I think I’m a bit disappointed. The book is heavy with descriptions of the rich buried in their generations-old wealth and lifestyle, crumbling under the influx of the newly wealthy. As a gist, it would be interesting, but it did feel a bit tedious to wade through, John’s witticisms aside. John makes for a rather well-defined character, though. Somehow I’ve always felt a bubble of laughter welling up at the things he manages to say, every now and then. He tries to maintain some control over the events that bear towards him inexorably, but in vain. He handles the culture shock his new neighbor, Mafia don Frank Bellarosa, brings with him with some deftness. Not so his friends and other neighbors, who begin to shun John and his family for associating with the Italian mob. The culmination of it all reveals a seediness to it that John would never have thought possible.
I preferred the second book, The Gatehouse. Mr. deMille’s writing will only have perfected itself over the next several years following The Gold Coast, and it shows. I suppose it can be read even without the first book, though in places it only lightly touches upon the things that happened a decade ago like John’s tax issues. The tone is nostalgic and perhaps it is understandable that John and Susan get back together so easily and seamlessly despite the events of ten years ago. In this book, John successfully resists the temptations Frank’s son Anthony bestows on him this time round. He rightly senses that Anthony is even more dangerous than his deceased father and revenge for the decade-old tragedy that occurred in his family is what is uppermost on his mind. He enlists FBI agent Mr. Mancuso’s help in extricating himself in this new mirror-like situation. This novel too culminates into a rather seedy drama that ends to the satisfaction of all.
The storyline of both books is not particularly creative, honestly. It’s an age-old tale of greed, seduction and revenge; and perhaps there were one too many explicitly intimate scenes that I feel were not really necessary to discuss in such depth. What really carries the narrative forward is John, I suppose. He made this story entertaining enough that I was able to recall bits and pieces of the first book, allowing me to try out the second one. There’s something riveting about the author’s writing. He can make the most mundane story come alive with a character of its own. I had especially liked his John Corey series, on anti-terrorism, which I’d read into the wee hours of the morning when my kids were young enough to keep me up in the night. I’ve decided to try out another of his books, lying on my table as I write this – Spencerville – a book that has drawn both ire and admiration from different quarters on many a review site.