In 1950's India, a young Englishman revisits childhood scenes, discovers new meaning in some misty memories, and turns...

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In 1950's India, a young Englishman revisits childhood scenes, discovers new meaning in some misty memories, and turns Oedipal fantasy into reality: familiar themes for veteran novelist King (Act of Darkness, etc.), whose contribution to the Harper Short Novel Series is intensely psychological, leanly atmospheric, and quite, quite predictable. Shaken by a recent divorce, narrator Rupert Ramsden is touring India with his aging, vague father and his comely, charming stepmother Kirsti. Their primary destination, guided by hapless driver Rajiv, is Balram, the village where Rupert grew up in the late 1930's--and where his mother, who died young, is buried. So there's an anticipatory glow of nostalgia as Rupert recalls the small pleasures of colonial life (his uncle was a railway official), his frail mother's tenderness, and the warm palship of a young doctor who was attached to the local mission. But Rupert is also oppressed by a dark undertow of feelings and dreams connected to the three women in his life: mother, ex-wife, stepmother. He's also disturbed by his growing sexual attraction to Kirsti, who seems to reciprocate his passion. Finally, just as the adulterous affair blossoms, Rupert learns the truth about his mother and that doctor-chum, seeing the past with different eyes. And he realizes that his gentle, all-forgiving father always knew those bygone secrets. . .just as he knows the Rupert/Kirsti secret from the start. (A flash-forward offers an idyllic picture, years later, of the younger, long-wed couple caring for ancient pa, who smiles at Kirsti ""with a still radiant, still welcoming, still forgiving love."") The incidental textures here--amusingly wretched Indian hotels, appealingly offbeat locals, evocative sights and smells--are delivered with quiet elegance and convincing detail. But the story itself, however well-dressed, remains a creaky mixture of post-Maugham triteness (young lad as witness to Mum's dalliance) and Desire Under the Elms, unpersuasively idealized.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988