Laura Rider's Masterpiece (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Laura Rider’s Masterpiece, Jane Hamilton’s sixth novel, recounts an Internet-era ménage à trois involving a married coupleLaura Rider and her husband Charlie Riderand radio talk-show host Jenna Faroli, a recent addition to the rural Wisconsin community of greater Hartley who has matched wits with public figures from presidential candidate Al Gore to musician Sting. Ultimately, the tangled Rider-Rider-Faroli triangle leads to an accidental, but painful, public revelation of Charlie and Jenna’s clandestine relationship. While Hamilton’s previous five novels, beginning with The Book of Ruth (1988) and continuing through When Madeline Was Young (2006), contain comic elements, by and large their tone is dark, reflective of the author’s focus on personal and familial tragedies.
Typical of Hamilton’s oeuvre is the recognition that acts of infidelity, abuse, and defamation have serious consequences. Central characters in previous novels bear the physical and emotional scars of trauma survivors. Essential questions about relationships between the individual, the married couple, the family, and the community are posed in Hamilton’s works, and although Laura Rider’s Masterpiece is written in the comic mode, such questions still surface.
Though populated with quirky characters, the novel explores the nebulous natures of truth and falsehood. Laura and Charlie Rider are a playful couple whose...
(The entire section is 1764 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Booklist 105, no. 14 (March 15, 2009): 42.
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 2 (January 15, 2009): special section, p. 6.
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 8 (April 15, 2009): 406.
People 71, no. 16 (April 27, 2009): 49.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 49 (December 8, 2008): 40.
USA Today, April 28, 2009, Life, p. 06d.
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