Household fans, beware: though occasionally graced by a veteran's powers of scene-setting and shrewd turns of phrase, this...

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THE SENDING

Household fans, beware: though occasionally graced by a veteran's powers of scene-setting and shrewd turns of phrase, this is a heavy-going, moodily occult departure from Household's darkly jaunty suspense mode. ""I am being followed. I do not know by whom or what."" So writes narrator Alfgif Hollaston in the journal that is this book. Alf is 40-ish, retired from his work training the new Indian Army, long a widower, now back in his English-country family place, pursuing his great love--painting. But what is this invisible threat following him about? Could it have something to do with Alf's beloved, uncannily wise pet--wild polecat Meg? Or with the mysterious hit-and-run death of Meg's former owner--Alf's friend Paddy, a saddler and uncommonly gifted horse-trainer? Soon Alf is convinced that he's receiving some ""sending""--through Meg--and that it's connected somehow to his ancestors' involvement with local witchcraft. So he investigates the past while also trying ""out my powers in the traditions of a witch,"" testing his ""primitive receptors"" by communing with livestock. (""I surrendered or tried to surrender to the oneness of me and the bullock."") And then Alf figures out that the source of the ""sending"" is a coven-leader--perhaps the Devil himself--in the Basque country; so when Alf's dear neighbor Rita is mysteriously de-souled, Alf must head Basque-ward and show the might of his powers to scare off the Devil. Thus it goes, with much talk (of souls, shamans, and the ""Purpose""), much relating to animals, and a final realization that the Devil ""could heal with the power of a saint."" Does Household really believe? It's hard to tell. But this small yet slow-moving tale has none of the zip of calculated occult entertainment--so neither Household's regular audience nor the pop-paranormal audience will find it congenial. Who will? Only, perhaps, a pale, Anglophilic portion of the Castaneda crowd.

Pub Date: April 1, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980