David Leavitt,
The Page Turner
(Mariner, 1998)

The Page Turner is the coming-of-age story of Paul Porterfield, a young lad with a dream to one day make a career out of being a classical pianist. To get there, he lands a one-time spot as the page turner for acclaimed, middle-aged pianist Richard Kennington, who years ago was known by industry insiders as a child prodigy.

While pursuing his dream, Paul comes to terms with his sexual identity, which includes a secret love affair with Kennington himself.

Penned by an author I at the time was unfamiliar with, The Page Turner turned out to be a (mostly) pleasant surprise -- right up until one of the worst literary endings I've ever come across. Ever. So much so that the brief novel, without hesitation, fell from my recommended list to those I'd warn others to proceed with caution. It's abrupt, unsatisfying and in no way relates to the rest of the book. It's as if David Leavitt got to a point where he threw his hands up at the story and quickly cheated an ending just to be done with it.

Granted, this isn't to say The Page Turner is perfection for the first two-thirds of the story, either. The beginning is clunky, inhibiting the story from gaining solid footing from the get-go. Leavitt also seems to struggle in developing deep, meaningful characters. Paul's mom, for example, is a one-dimensional bundle of nerves -- nothing more, nothing less. This becomes troubling, too, as her character steals a good portion of the spotlight.

But taken for what it is, The Page Turner is an OK read, and a good choice for those in need of light lit.

review by
Eric Hughes

22 August 2009

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