I know The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
is considered a masterpiece, but - despite McCullers' astonishing maturity, sensitivity and attention to detail (she is a chameleon, able to speak in many voices, and construct very private and very full lives for her characters, male and female, White and Black alike) it failed to move me on some fundamental level.
There is the sadness, the tiredness, the bleakness of poverty, and the two major, yet invisible characters: Economy and Prejudice. The characters speak in turns, without being able to communicate or understand much; it is frequently repeated that McCullers presents them in a fugue-like manner, in a composition which culminates in a nightmarish, sequenced ending, days before the outbreak of the WW II. The ending itself is not as gruesome as some of the earlier events of the novel, but each of the characters ends up in his or her private hell, and we realize that *this* is life - there's no escaping Racial Prejudice or Economy, which ultimately defeat everyone
The book's other theme is the cult of the individual and unfounded
hero worship, which reminds me of what was going on at the same time in Europe. At the time of racial and economic turmoil, lost - or careworn - individuals were in desparate need not only of understanding, but also being told what to do.
I feel that structurally, aside from the fugue-and-culmination composition (think Requiem for a Dream
), the novel is not very interesting. Singer's secret (or lack thereof)
is too strongly explained rather than shown; the dream sequences are rather weak, excluding perhaps Jake's final dream; there are moments where the 'confessing to a deaf-mute' composition seems to be merely a plausible way of facilitating character presentation through monologues.
On the whole: while I appreciate the content, it's just 'another sad novel' to me, and I just cannot push myself to give the book four stars - perhaps I'll raise the rating later.
Review based on thoughts recorded for 2015: The Year of Reading Women