"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)
The book was not without flaw. It was drawn out and rambling in some parts; occasionally the dialogue didn't seem to work very well. However, it was a compelling story about a topic that interests me very much right now -- the life of a rising star author.
Wouk did an excellent job of characterizing. You really got a feel for the people he created. Youngblood Hawke was a larger than life, beast of a man. As a writer, I recognized the qualities that most of us can probably relate to: a huge ego, necessary to even consider putting pen to paper; tormenting bursts of self-doubt; the belief that one can write much better, as you'll see in the next book; and that strange compulsion to keep writing, whatever the circumstances.
The supporting characters were just as compelling and well-sketched. As Wouk revealed more and more about his characters, kind of like peeling the skin off an onion, you experienced the same loss of innocence and disgust that Youngblood Hawke, himself, felt. The few moral characters in the story shined brightly, tugged at your heart and earned your sympathy.
I won't spoil the book for you, but I have to admit that the ending was very unsatisfying to me. That was probably due to my attachment to some of the characters. I didn't feel that the ending was necessarily wrong, per se. I just think that the author could have chosen the alternative and still remained true to the story.
Now, I'm not satisfied reading a book unless I am able to take something from it to add to my craft. To that end, Wouk was masterful at using foreshadowing. Throughout the book, he sprinkled subtle, poetic hints at what would happen in the story. It was not surprising the way the events unfolded, it was more like a fulfillment of promises.
I don't know if I would heartily recommend this book. It had such a cynical and pessimistic tone. I also personally could have done without a lot of the profanity; hey, I'm sensitive that way. But I don't regret the time I sacrificed to read it.