THE RACK by A. E. Ellis
Kirkus Star


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A first novel is a remarkable achievement. If it will bring to mind- inevitably- the Magic Mountain- it will not be to its disadvantage- no symbolism has been attempted and no sentiment indulged. It is on the other hand an unflinchingly clinical view of illness and it records some two years spent in a Swiss sanatorium by a tubercular patient with a forbidding pathological accuracy which some readers may be reluctant to endure. Paul Davenant, a young Englishman with no family and very little money, comes to Les Alpes- ""His course so clearly set for death"" since he has very little will to live. In spite of his rather negative attitudes and neurotic tendencies, one follows with increasing identification the unpredictable, paradoxical graph of his illness; the temperatures which are its ""touchstone"", the sudden ""cures"" and false hopes and setbacks, the dreadful treatments- the punctures and the drainings; the special terminology (pleuroscope and thoroscopy, liquide and red ink, etc., etc.) and the special accessories of this disease- the thermometer and the crachoir. There are the patients who share in the constant diagnosis, as well as the doctors- blunt, calculating, sympathetic, who are also at the whim of some higher destiny. And along with the grim, physical realities- there is also the release in highspirited comedy. For Paul, after the first year seems to bring an unexpected cure, there is an incentive to live when he falls in love with a young girl; their relationship gives some meaning to the future- hopeless as it is, and makes the novel considerably more moving as it approaches the end which was pretty much foreordained from the beginning..... It is, all in all, a chill, sombre, powerful and unquestionably fascinating book- and rarely has the self-enclosed world of the sick, in which death is perhaps the nearest bystander, been recorded with greater precision. This does not necessarily mean that it will attract a healthy audience, but it has had a fine press in England- and should receive one here.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1959
Publisher: Little, Brown-A.M.P.