Top positive review
A Classic Crime story
Reviewed in India on 23 June 2019
I feel I'm the last person to have read this classic about a Kansas farmer and his family - who are viciously murdered by two crooks, a crime without apparent motive or clues - but I'm not surprised at all that this remains such a compelling journey, more that five decades later.
Capote surveys the lives of the Clutter family, painting a vivid picture of the 1950’s Midwestern small town USA.
While the stunning farm is brought to life, the individual members are examined in details that never seem verbose. The patriarch, Herb Clutter, is especially depicted as it later turns out he is the most barbarically slaughtered of the victims.
Along the way, the sundry and colorful inhabitants of the village of Holcomb, the upheavals in the life of the idyllic farming community and the lives of the investigators - obstinately determined to solve the apparently unsolvable and what appears to be the perfect crime - are examined in such a beautiful, yet considerate, flowing prose that I was bonded to the narrative till the last sentence.
But what sets this book apart is Capote's central analysis of the killers - Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. He deconstructs their lives in a fascinating arc, from their troubled childhood to the events leading up to the crime and their eventual capture and punishment. The parallel stories of the felons are intricately woven, alternating with the investigation and never once did I feel overwhelmed.
The ultimate result of the striking journalistic work by Capote (done with his childhood friend Harper Lee, as I later learned) and his fluent prose, is an unprecedented treatise on two dishonorable lives spinning out of control.
He makes you realize that they are, after all, very human too. The frightening realization is that with some twisted fate, any one of us could have been in their shoes. Some may even sympathize with them, and probably that scandalized a lot of the conservative 1960s readership.
The book succeeds in questioning our belief in capital punishment; the relationship between mental illness & crime ; and the effect of childhood vicissitudes & parent-child relationships moulding a person's life choices.
A few details of this 'non-fiction novel’ have been questioned by critics, but this is a path breaking work of American crime writing and it makes me wonder why Capote wasn't awarded the Pulitzer for this, if not the Nobel Prize!
I'm sorry I let this masterpiece rot away on my shelf for so long. I'm not even a tad ashamed to proclaim that I'm in love with the literary genius of Truman Capote.