The key to TIME WILL DARKEN IT by William Maxwell is the forward which is a description of perspective in painting a landscape. How we perceive characters (their intentions, who they are) can change over time influenced by any number of factors. The author has the power to color them in.
The plot of this book is simple when boxed into a typical synopsis – The Southern relatives of a young lawyer visit him and his family (pregnant wife and young daughter) in Illinois. The 20 something daughter of the relatives (they are not blood relatives as they basically adopted the young man’s father when he was a boy) falls in love with the lawyer.
But this book is so much more than that. About the closest analogy I can come up with is WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson but whereas Anderson tells of the citizens of his fictional town with broad brushstrokes and dramatic language, Maxwell is subtle using the barest of details of setting ups his scenes economically to convey the most complex or involved scenarios. An example of this would be the son of the Southern relatives who without too many words is described as a sadist and child molester.
Towards the end of the book Maxwell starts to throw in further details of the lives of the other people who live in fictional Draperville, Illinois. The concept here is that we are all a part of the same continuum and your time on stage must be taken in tandem with who you are and whatever tidbits of past history are chosen to be revealed by the author.
I loved this book as I’ve loved the other two books I’ve read by Maxwell. He has a way of telling us everything about both a scene and how a character feels without giving us too much information, overdoing it.
I wrote about these two books of Maxwell here THEY CAME LIKE SWALLOWS http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/673512456/they-came-like-swallows-by-william-maxwell/
And THE FOLDED LEAF http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2010/12/folded-leaf-by-william-maxwell.html