Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years

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Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years hardcover jacket

The hardcover jacket for Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years by George V. Higgins.

George V. Higgins’ Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years

The cover of this 1988 paperback quotes the New York Times Book Review: “Very readable, often hilarious.” I don’t know about “hilarious”, but it is very readable – although it can be pretty slow going at times as well.

For those unfamiliar with the author, George V. Higgins, he’s a crime writer best known for his book The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a 1970 novel that was made into a 1973 movie starring Robert Mitchum. As well, I think crime fiction writer Elmore Leonard has cited Higgins – a former attorney-turned-novelist – as an influence.

You can see the influence on Leonard in Higgins’ use of dialogue – in fact, Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years is almost all dialogue. This takes some getting used to, and the downside is that some characters’ voices are more interesting than others.

But I liked Higgins people, from businessmen to lawyers to hairdressers to chauffeurs, and the all-dialogue format makes parsing the actual plotline (something to do with Boston politics) a challenge, but that’s part of the fun. One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is how Higgins introduces an AIDS subplot – but though this dates the book it doesn’t make the book dated, if you know what I mean.

Although I suspect this isn’t the best introduction to Higgins – it’s 400 pages and dense; for crime fiction fans, it’s only peripherally about a crime – it’s a worthwhile read. The gold-embossed cover on the secondhand paperback edition I  picked up is a nice bonus, and harks back to the days when even a more literary work like this could get the mass-market bestseller “airport book” treatment.

Wonderful Years Wonderful Years paperback book cover

Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years (1988) by George V. Higgins.

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