I really am. Last night I sat in the lobby at church, ignoring everyone, in order to finish The Tenth Circle. I’d forgotten how hard her books grab on to you and will not let go until you turn the last page.
NOTE: The paragraph you just read was written about…three weeks ago. I’m lazy.
I thought it was getting ridiculous that I never wrote a blog about this book, especially because I’ve been talking about it so much lately, so I decided to finally sit my butt down and write. I’ve also got a blog about Angela’s Ashes that needs to come soon, but this one takes precedence.
There are so many amazing things about this novel, it’s difficult to find a place to start when writing about it. I suppose I could start with the plot. It’s non-stop shock. Picoult’s novels always stun me, because just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse for the protagonist, she blindsides me with something else. The Tenth Circle has possibly one of the most gripping plots I’ve ever read. Really, I’d love to tell you what happens, but I can’t give anything away. Suffice to say this: The story is about a family (mom, dad, daughter) and when something bad happens to daughter Trixie, it’s about the lengths that this family will go to in order to protect and avenge their little girl. There is also a lot of marital drama, high school drama, and crime drama.
This is another one of those novels in which the reader does not quite know who to “root” for. There really are not clear cut human antagonists because Picoult gives voice to each of the characters on either side of the conflict, and they are all so biased that one does not know who is telling or remembering the truth correctly. Eventually (on, like, the last page), the real truth comes out, and when it does the resolution is so satisfying because the ride has been lightning fast and has stolen your breath, and really, you just want to rest by the end of the book.
One thing that amazes me is how well-researched this novel is. I know from following her Twitter account that Picoult very actively researches her novels, and she chooses interesting subjects. In addition to a detailed knowledge about Dante, Picoult also includes the comic book publishing industry, crime and forensics (a field of science which I can imagine is extremely difficult to research and portray accurately), and a tragic description of the impoverished life of some of the native people of Alaska. She weaves so many different elements into her novels that if baffles my mind, and creates characters that are fascinatingly unique, and yet still so believable.
The novel is called The Tenth Circle because one of the characters is a professor of English at a university, teaching a Dante course, and another is a comic book artist creating a story of a “tenth circle” of Dante’s Inferno. As this comic book is written (the reader gets to see it because there are a few pages of it before each chapter—which is so cool!), the reader comes to understand that the comic book being written is a parallel for the lives of the characters in the novel. It is, in fact, based on the characters and what is happening to them as the novel progresses. For example, as the comic book is about a man who would become a monster in order to protect his only daughter, the father in the novel is willing to do the same thing. It’s very cool to see the same basic plot unfold in both the novel and the comic book, with one being a realistic version and another being based in fantasy.
I highly recommend this novel. The content is sad, intense, surprising, and mature, but anyone who appreciates a dramatic work of fiction needsto read this book.