When looking deep into the life of someone other than yourself, you often get lost in a treasury of stories other than just the one you’re looking for. Paul La Farge captures this ‘falling down the Rabbit Hole’ of stories effect perfectly in his latest novel The Night Ocean.
The novel, which was first published in March, follows multiple characters through life crisis, secrets and extraordinary scandal. At first, the reader is introduced to Marina Willet, a successful psychiatrist, who recently lost her husband Charlie, a curious writer, to suicide. Though after years of profiling not only her patient’s minds, but also her husbands, she is not fully convinced that Charlie would take his own life. Prior to Charlie’s supposed death, the reader follows him on his obsessive journey deep into the life of famous horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Tormented with finding out the truth behind Lovecraft's famous life of supposed asexuality, Charlie’s quest brings him new knowledge of Lovecraft’s inner circle and a book called The Erotonomicon which seems to hold the key to unlocking Lovecraft’s best kept secret. But Charlie quickly learns no one really is who they say they are, and Lovecraft’s life is now no more than manuscripts and distant memories to most.
La Farge does a wonderful job of drawing the reader in with the incessant need to know the truth. The novel is 400pages, but the segmented, time-traveling timeline is so packed full of different lives, facts and tales that it feels more like one of H.P. Lovecraft's collections of short stories than it does a novel based around digging into his private life. With surprises around every turn of the page and new characters to add to the melting pot of facts, La Farge truly makes the reader feel like they are investigating the lives of each and every character. It is up to the reader to decide between what is opinion and what is truth. Did H.P. Lovecraft have a lover in his life? Did Charlie truly commit suicide? And will Marina ever again know the difference between what is real and what is not?