Thursday, May 03, 2007

Third Day Book Report: "A Changing Light"

This month's Third Day Book Report is on A Changing Light, by Nora Gallagher, which is set in Los Alamos, NM during the mid-1940s when scientists there were inventing the atomic bomb. By coincidence, at the same time I was reading Changing Light, I was listening in the car to Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, which deals with the early 1940s, prior to the entry of the United States into World War II. I really liked both books, but they're completely different, except for their time periods and the subject of World War II.

Changing Light looks at the little picture, the relationship between a New York artist, a Georgia O'Keefe type of painter, who has moved to New Mexico because of the perfect light for her art and to get away from her domineering husband who envies her success, and a Hungarian Jew who took to Einstein his idea for an atomic bomb and is having second thoughts about what he is doing, as the bomb nears completion. There is a love story, told delicately, but passionately, like an O'Keefe painting of a pistel and stamen.

Roth's novel imagines a big picture that could have, but didn't happen. He writes about what could have happened if Charles Lindbergh, an admirer of Hitler, had run for the presidency in 1940 and defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although written from the point of view of a boy,The Plot Against America is more about the country and the latent anti-semitism that runs rampant with some encouragement from the political powers that be.

Changing Light is Gallagher's first novel, but she is an experienced writer and this book is written with a deft hand, almost a painterly touch. Roth is not subtle, and although he writes passionately, it is not a love passion but a political passion, at least in this book. I have really gotten to enjoy Roth the last few years, particularly Sabbath's Theater and Everyman. The plot of The Plot Against America gets a little farfetched at times, while Changing Light also has some improbabilities. I really enjoyed both books and gave them my highest ratings of five stars each.