The Great Believers

The Great Believers is a readable 400+ page epic, but it moved me much less than it moved other members of my book club, with whom I discussed the book recently. The most interesting parts, for me, were the inside view into the world of art acquistion, the portrait of life in Chicago in the 80s in the gay community, and the role of women in the AIDS crisis. The less interesting parts were the story in present-day Paris where Fiona is trying to track down her estranged daughter.

One of the more interesting points of discussion in our group was a juxtaposition between this book, written by a white woman about a community she is not a member of (AIDS survivors) and Asymmetry, writen by a white woman, at least in part, centered on the experience of a Middle Eastern man. The consensus in the group seemed like Makkai had done an admirable job researching and thanking members of the community she was writing about and acknowledging that she could never fully understand their experience. Whereas Halladay seemed to be writing about the experience of another person purely as an act of novelistic chauvinism. I’m not sure I ultimately agree but it did make for an interesting conversation.