Too Many Men
Picador, $28 pb, 714 pp
There are now 10,000 books written about Auschwitz. About the Holocaust there must be many more tens of thousands. Lily Brett is one of the great readers and collectors of these books. Her novels and poems are awash with Holocaust details and with an obsessive sense of responsibility for this impossible knowledge. Impossible because the horrific details cannot be held in the mind for long. In Too Many Men, the Holocaust stories do not come with the poised and philosophical moral gravity of an Inga Clendinnen, nor with the outrageous sensationalism of a Darville but with a doggedness and astonishment that are finally powerfully effective.
Too Many Men might be the novel Lily Brett has been trying to write all these years as she produced her earlier three smaller, less ambitious novels. From the outset it promises to be a weighty reprise on the previous novels. I was disappointed at first for the impression was that I had stepped right back into Just Like That (1994), a novel I thought had lacked the brittle edginess of her first two. Long before the end, though, this book won me over.