Volume III of the Finnbranch trilogy (Yearwood, 1980; Undersea, 1982), as enigmatic and convoluted as before--though with themes and doings at some considerable remove. The setting is New Awanux, a tree-covered, Anglicized New England complete with pubs, railways, aristocrats, and pounds sterling; the backwoods are--maybe--inhabited by ""Indians,"" birdlike, corporeal ghosts. The immortal Will Wykeham (Finn), a frequent traveller, periodically becomes a younger version of himself. An ancestor (himself?.) set up a trust, presently administered by the Duke of West Redding, to run his estates; here Wykeham will draw a select group to participate in portentous events--culminating in a change in reality. Wykeham's nominees--his daughter, his girlfriend, the local pastor, a professor, the Duke, some workmen, a ghost or two--will, by lending their memories, help to determine what the new reality will be like. (Wykeham has done all this many times before, hence the peculiar construction of the original reality.) As the old reality crumbles, other, even odder beings put in appearances. In an astounding sequence, the women band together, shed their clothes, and become ""Indians,"" aerial spirits unable to alight; they must be caught and reeled down to earth by Wykeham's committee. Some different, perhaps real, ""Indians"" descend on the town and burn it. Finally, Wykeham has an inconclusive meeting with an age-old rival. Dense, surreal, tantalizing work, often powerful and spellbinding, heavy with symbolism, and sometimes irksomely knowing and impenetrable. So: literate, frequently intriguing weirdness that weighs in somewhere between evasive subtlety and imponderable cleverness.
Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1985
Page Count: -
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown