I read Golden Gate by Vikram Seth this week, a book I have been keeping an eye open for for years, and was not disappointed. When I read An Equal Music a few years ago I thought it was one of the best books I had read for a long time (although I later found A Suitable Boy impossible to digest).
Golden Gate is a rare tour de force: a novel in verse. The whole book, including the Acknowledgments, Dedication, Table of Contents, and endnote about the author, is written in fourteen line sonnet-like stanzas with a strict meter and rhyme scheme. There is no sign that these constraints have done anything to inhibit the author’s freedom or expressive power.
Here is a beautiful example, describing one of my favourite places, the source of the book’s title, and also of this site’s colour scheme:
They park the car by the Marina.
The surface of the cobalt bay
Is flecked with white. The moister, keener
October air has rinsed away
The whispering mists with crisp intensity
And over the opaque immensity
A deliquescent wash of blue
Reveals the bridge, long lost to view
In summer’s quilt of fog: the towers,
High-built, red-gold, with their long span
—The most majestic spun by man—
Whose threads of steel through mist and showers
Wind, spray, and the momentous roar
Of ocean storms, link shore to shore.
It is an interesting coincidence that both the books by Vikram Seth that I have enjoyed so much have been about places that I have been familiar with. In An Equal Music almost every location, especially Kensington and Venice, was resonant with my own memories, and Golden Gate is set in my new home, the San Francisco Bay area.