Calling Ayn Rand a controversial figure would be the understatement of the year. In some circles claiming to be a fan of her work could get you labeled an elitist or a nut. Then there are the legions of acolytes who hold her work up like stone tablets from the mountain top, whether they understand it or not.
As for myself, I’m a fan of Rand’s novels and her thoughts on literature, but don’t subscribe to her political-economic views. Occasionally I muse about whether she would hold the same views were she alive today. After all, Rand was logical above all else. She defined her own terms, spoke them eloquently, and did so as a Jewish immigrant in the early/mid-twentieth century. That’s nothing to dismiss lightly. But on to her “new” novel.
Rand died in 1982, so Ideal is not really new. It was written after We The Living (1936), Rand’s first novel, but before The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) made her famous. Ideal was never intended for publication as a novel; it was rewritten and ultimately produced as a stage play. This book contains both the novel and the play script. In Ideal fans of Rand’s fiction will find everything they’re used to expecting from her: larger than life characters, a plot that keeps you turning pages, crackling dialogue, flawless prose, and of course a highly moral (or at least moralistic) theme.
The plot surrounds a murder. Famous film starlette, Kay Gonda, is accused of the killing and she races around Hollywood seeking refuge. She has taken six pieces of fan mail with her and hopes that someone among them will hide her from the police. Who will save her? The respectable family man? The activist? The cynic? The preacher? The playboy? Or none of the above?
But what kept me reading, just as much as the question of “whodunit?” is “What is this author saying?” Each of Gonda’s encounters with her fans makes a different statement on values, appearances, society, etc., making Rand herself as much of a character in the story as the novel’s protagonist. The novel’s climactic and controversial conclusion, which I won’t give away here, is designed to get you thinking, and it certainly does that.
Bottom Line: Ideal would make an ideal kick-off to an Ayn Rand book club, a warm-up to her lengthier and better known works. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.