At its best, & Sons is amazing. Not only does David Gilbert write prose with beautiful construction, but he crafts excellent scenes and interesting characters. Along the way, he travels unexpected avenues, adding twists and turns that may be jarring for some readers; personally I found them to be creative, well-placed, and fun. & Sons is a multi-layered novel, and is probably best enjoyed at a slow pace, among readers who take time to dissect its many meanings. That being said, it can be an overwhelming novel. Had I the time, I probably would've chosen to crack open & Sons further, explore its inner mysteries, but I didn't feel the need. I took it at its face value and considered it a worthwhile experience.
At its worst, & Sons drags on. Personally, I would've elected for tighter editing, though I see why a book such as this might suffer from harsher cuts. Readers needing constant movement may give up on this novel before reaching its end. When & Sons moves, however, it certainly moves. Although the characters and their dynamics are interesting, I do think it is a bit too easy to keep them at a distance. They're interesting, but not necessarily accessible—it was as though they were part of an alien culture I could never understand or relate to.
Overall, I liked & Sons, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I might. I believe part of this was the narrative voice of Philip Topping. I won't say the choice of narrator was wrong, but it did make me uncomfortable throughout the story. Every time he referenced himself or jumped into the first person, I was jarred from the otherwise smooth flow. I think Topping was an interesting choice, and certainly added another layer to the story, but his presence did not make for the most pleasant read.
& Sons got significant pre-pub hype, and that can certainly be damaging to a book, especially one that primarily targets the literati. It's a good book, and one you might consider if you're looking for something to read. Ampersand—the fictitious novel at the core of & Sons—is a must read, however. According to many of the characters in & Sons, you're either a fan of Catcher in the Rye or a fan of Ampersand; I am fairly confident I would be in the company of the latter.