by thea marie
A journal of items that I am reading/ have read: a personal commitment for 2008
Finn, a Novel
As a kid, I was introduced to the works of Mark Twain. My favorites at that time were, of course, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I loved both characters for their strong, indomitable spirits and for their longing to be who they were and not what society tried to form them to be. As a girl growing up in times where society's ideals of what a "good" girl should be took precedence over who she might really be or who she desired to be, I took refuge in reading about and identifying with characters who fought hard against society's restraints. I took delight in those characters who tried to live up to being decent people, but who did so without giving up their true selves. I identified strongly with Tom, but Huck Finn was my favorite.
After years of putting it to the side of my life, I got back into writing through fanfiction. I developed a character for an old television program that I fell in love with years ago. I have written a series of stories based on this character. In reading a book club preview blurb, I learned that Clinch had essentially done the same thing in this novel he’s built around Finn, Huck Finn’s father. Clinch didn't create this character, but in his novel, Clinch considerably fleshes out Twain's original character.
In Huck Finn, it is revealed that Huck’s loathsome father met his demise in a house along the river. The reader is relieved that Huck will no longer have to be harassed and threatened by Finn. In Clinch’s book, the story begins with the discovery of Finn’s body in that house, but then it backtracks to tell the story of Finn himself.
In this novel, the reader learns who Finn is and how he came to be the despicable lowlife he is depicted to be in Twain’s novel. Clinch fills us in on how Finn’s life took the surprising turn that it did from what it could have been. In the telling, Finn is utterly disgusting, but at the same time sympathetic as he is very much a victim of his upbringing and the times in which he lives.
The reader also learns more of the boy, Huckleberry Finn. With an unexpected but logical boldness, Clinch fills in a lot of the gaps about Huck's background that were left open in Twain’s novel. He ties up loose ends in a manner that is ingenious, believable, and quite sad, especially for one character. I can’t say more than that because then I would be giving the story away.
I can say that this novel took me through a gamut of emotions: disgust, surprise, outrage, exasperation, satisfaction, and more. The book itself was at times a tedious read, as Clinch is long on description and the story makes jumps that are sometimes confusing, particularly if it is read in interrupted segments, as I tended to do. When picking it back up to continue, I often found myself forced to go back and reread to retie the threads of time frame and locations.
I am not sure if die-hard Twain fans would appreciate Clinch’s take on this extension of one of Twain’s characters, but for me, it was a fascinating supposition, an interesting "might could be".