At first, I did not recognise this as a Helen DeWitt novel at all. You may ask with what temerity I presume to talk of "Helen De Witt novels" when there has only ever been one (however wonderful that one is), but there it is: I have spent some 10 years or so reading and re-reading The Last Samurai, and had formed some very clear ideas of what characterised this novel, and extrapolated from there to a general tendency. This is a dangerous thing to do.
DeWitt has said that
It was very different from The Last Samurai, so different that 50% (at a guess) of readers who loved TLS hated the book.
And I really thought I was going to be one of them. The opening of the book really threw me. It did not help, of course, that my rather prudish mind was rather taken aback by being confronted with a failed salesman's failed sexual fantasies. In fact, if I were not cursed (?) with an inability to actually give up on a book, I would probably have given up. This despite the fact that I absolutely adore DeWitt's last book.
My complete faith in the author helped. I am fairly sure that if a man whose writing I did not trust had written the same, the book would have fallen down the reading pile, making the neutrinos blink as it passed them.
And then, about half-way through, I finally spotted DeWitt.