2 out of 4 stars
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William H. Cole’s McDowell is a fiction novel about an arrogant, amoral man on his path to redemption. It takes us through his life of callous indifference until he is accused and convicted of murder, and his subsequent reform as he lives the hard life of an escaped convict. The story is ripe with emotions, describing the life of a man and the people around him with very realistic feelings. It was happy in some parts and sad in others; I felt the love, hate jealousy and much more as the author walked us through the life of Dr Hiram McDowell.
The story revolves around the life of a surgeon Dr Hiram McDowell, covering everything from his glamorous rise to fame to a notorious downfall and his subsequent journey towards becoming a better person. The book is written in two parts. Part one is about McDowell’s path towards glory and success, as a famous surgeon who ran a health foundation in Nepal, was President of the International College of Surgeons and was nominated for the post of Health Secretary of the United States. He is also shown as an avid mountaineer who spends all his free time scaling the mountains in Nepal. In contrast, he is shown as a cheating husband and arrogant person who cares for nothing except his own success and fame. The only people he’s shown to love are his three children Sophie, Billie and Ann. Part two concentrates on his epic fall from grace and path to self-realisation that followed.
Emotions, excitement, love, hate, the thrill of a prison break: McDowell has it all. It covers a man’s life and hence that of all those whose lives are intertwined with his. One thing I really loved about the book was how the author gives importance to every character mentioned; from Dr McDowell’s random acquaintances to his children, to someone he cheated on his wife with. Cole has managed to develop each character perfectly, giving everyone the exact depth needed to complete the story.
The book seems to be impeccably edited, but there was one thing I found unsettling: the sudden shifts in the tense that happen intermittently throughout the book. Of course, when the point of view changed, so did the tone and style, which is a good thing. But with the same timeline and the same point of view, the change in tense was quite disconcerting.
Also, though the story seems thrilling, the book fell flat when it came to keeping me occupied. It wasn’t what you’d call “un-put-downable”. Although it makes you feel every emotion known, it progresses slowly. The changing timelines are also a bit unclear and frankly, dizzying because sometimes, a year passes in a single page, and at others, a single day drags on for several pages.
I’d recommend the book to those who like reading about people’s lives. But it’s not a story for someone who gets bored easily or loves a good mystery. I give the book 2 out of 4 stars, because I found the book a bit dull and also felt that the change in tenses could have been avoided.
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