“Our Tragic Universe” is one of those books that could have gone horribly wrong in the hands of a less talented writer than Scarlett Thomas. With Thomas driving though, the reader is taken on a journey through literary ideas, hopes and realities.
Meg Carpenter is a writer. She’s still working on her “real” novel. She hasn’t finished it yet, because she keeps erasing it all and starting over. In the meantime, to make ends meet, she ghostwrites young adult genre fiction, reviews books and teaches writing classes. In other words, she’s broke but she hasn’t given up on her dream yet.
When Meg accidentally reviews the wrong book, everything in her life begins to change. The book deals with the end of the universe and living forever. Meg starts examining her own life, what she’s putting out into the universe and what it’s giving her back.
“Our Tragic Universe” is a book with very little plot, and yet I still found myself deeply engrossed in the story and the characters. The characters, including Meg, aren’t exceptional or heroic, but they are real and believable.
Throughout the novel, the idea of a “storyless story” is brought up by Meg and her friends. “Our Tragic Universe” is a storyless story. It’s anything but formulaic. There’s no suspense or climax or mystery, and yet somehow Thomas has managed to write a completely engrossing novel about one average woman and her life. I’m still not sure how Thomas did it, or what it was about this book that drew me in. All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it in record time. The fact that I’m still unsure why or what I loved about this book speaks to Thomas’ brilliance in her craft.
Thomas’ writing is excellent, and her ability to meander along a storyline without it being boring amazes me. Meander is perhaps the best description of this plot. The reader simply meanders with Meg through a short period in her life. Meg’s motivations are never revealed, and Thomas doesn’t give us extensive background on any of the characters.
“Our Tragic Universe” is worth reading if only for its uniqueness. Thomas has written a truly original novel about an author and books. I’m sure I’m making no sense at this point and doing this wonderful book no justice with my description, but perhaps that is what makes this book so good - it is indescribable. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed it completely. It is thoughtful and refreshing, and I highly recommend it.
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