Full Disclosure: I received this Kindle book from Net Galley in exchange for a review.
This book is not for everyone. It is not a page turner. It was written in the 1950’s and just now came out as a Kindle book. The story takes place in Boston,specifically Harvard University. It centers around the liberal politics of the Harvard professors and more specifically around the suicide of a particular professor,Edward Cavan. We learn about his suicide in the prologue at the same time his sister Isabel is informed of his death. Isabel lives in California,a world away from Harvard. The following chapters then tell the back story of Edward,a brilliant, complicated man. Even his relationship with his mother(which we learn from his sister is different). Edward and his colleagues have formed the Harvard Teachers Union. (an offshoot of the Civil Liberties Union)They are progressives and socialists and their views cause them troubles. Edward is uncompromising in his views and this causes a break with his colleagues.In the end we witness the traces of the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s. His friend Damon when questioned summarizes for the subversive committee hearings his view of Edward and I quote” that although Edward Cavan may have been wrong in his belief that Communists and Socialists could and should work together,in the essence of his belief he was right and many of us were wrong”.
The last half of the book has Edward’s sister and friends trying to understand his death and why he committed suicide. They are burdened with both grief and guilt. The writing is beautiful and I found myself highlighting many passages. The title is intriguing. It comes from Proverbs 27:6( Faithful are the wounds of a friend,profuse are the kisses of an enemy) In the end Edward’s wounded friends remained faithful to him. He truly was loved and respected by them. Edward lived what he believed.
One other interesting passage in the book (and there were many) is when one of Edward’s friends passes a chestnut tree whose branch was broken off and it had an open wound.The friend wanted a tree surgeon to fix the wound immediately. Such beautiful symbolism as Edward and his friends are all wounded.
This is a slow read and not for everyone. It has to be absorbed and thought about long after you turn the last page. I enjoyed the book (the Boston scenes were familiar to me) as it gives one thoughtful pause. It was written so many years ago but it still fits in with today’s culture.