Email this review


Judd's fifth novel (Tango, 1990, etc.), winner of a Guardian Fiction Prize in England, pays self-conscious homage to Ford Madox Ford's classic, The Good Soldier, as befits a book by a Ford biographer. As in The Good Soldier, the novel is recounted by an unnamed narrator, an unassuming secondary school teacher who tells readers about the rise and fall of his friend Edward. At the outset, Edward is a promising young writer who makes a major leap in his career with a scathing essay about O.M. Tyrrel, the aged ""doyen of English letters."" The reclusive Tyrrel unexpectedly invites Edward to interview him at his home on the French Riviera. At the end of their interview, Tyrrel gives him a mysterious and incomprehensible manuscript, then keels over dead. Not long after, Edward begins a meteoric rise, enjoying both critical and popular success, and becomes involved with the seemingly ageless Eudoxie, who was Tyrrel's mistress. The narrator and Edward remain friends, but there are strange phenomena surrounding Edward and his household, including the mysterious noise of a pen writing whenever he is thinking about work and the peculiar behavior of Eudoxie. Gradually, the narrator learns the secret of the manuscript and the woman who comes with it. He discovers that his wife and Edward have had an affair, which ultimately causes her to have a breakdown. Edward declines into morbid old age. In his final encounter with the narrator, he reveals the secret of his success before passing the manuscript on to another writer. Ironically, his critical reputation declines, as Tyrrel's had, after his death. Judd seems to intend his tale as an allegory about the price of success, but the connections are strained and the plotting predictable. An uneasy, unhappy, and unproductive mix of Ford Madox Ford and Stephen King.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1994
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Knopf