Nadia. ""Writing about her is the only way to possess her."" So writes David Cozens (""Tishy"" to his Uncle Raymond) thirty...



Nadia. ""Writing about her is the only way to possess her."" So writes David Cozens (""Tishy"" to his Uncle Raymond) thirty years after the fact, sitting at his London desk in his ""old kit""--""the khaki shorts with flaps you can let down"" that he wore as a private in Cairo in 1941. And who was Nadia? Second wife of Uncle Raymond, the first man in David's family to ""earn his living without taking his tie off,"" an expatriate intellectual, and a bedridden Major when he asks virginal David to check on Auntie Nadia's well-being. But who was Nadia really? A teenaged Copt of astonishing sexuality, ""mad as a ferret"" (she leaps from the Great Pyramid in a halfhearted suicide try), furious in her new-found knowledge of Raymond's first marriage, and--as David discovers just when they're about to relocate their incestuous affair to the countryside--an Officers-Only courtesan of highest low repute. ""With an aunt like that who needed a psychiatrist?"" Nevertheless, David's infatuation persists, right up to the night when the moral objections of Nadia's father and brother are translated into a club-and-bayonet attack, supposedly killing Nadia and definitely hospitalizing David, who goes on to decades of sexual stagnation. And, when Nadia materializes in London one 1960s day, it all comes back to David, but leaves him no happier. In what reads more as a long short story than a novel, Newby (Something to Answer For) once again tiptoes neatly between sentiment and satire, recalling Wodehouse, Waugh (in the army bureaucracy and a shut-up-and-pray army chaplain), and Maugham (Nadia's internationalistic father declares: ""We do not believe in Somerset Mangham's foreigners""). David's shell-shocked fate may seem unprepared and stagy, but the path he takes to reach it is mined with grace, wit, and unforced evocations of colonial habitats and the curvaceous Cairo skyline.

Pub Date: July 19, 1977


Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1977