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Angus Wilson, whose wicked talent appeared to best advantage in two collections of short stories, The Wrong Set and Such Darling Dodex, has found here a much more extensive range for his acute and acerb form of satire. If it is less successful, it is perhaps because such a novel, and this is an ambitious novel of more than 400 pages and more than forty characters, cannot exist without a narrative. Mr. Wilson, through a clever artifice, has assembled his large cast and achieved a devastating discussions piece of a number of types as well as attitudes and they include several professors, a novelist, a business man, a popular politician, a former actress, as well as husbands, wives and childres of several nationalities. Their lives are joined by Gerald Middleton, a former professor of medieval history, who now at sixty odd is filled with self-recrimination and self- disgust; he is a ""failure of the most boring kind, a failure with a conscience""---and academician who never achieved the promise of his youth, a sensualist without the ""courage of his desires"". His life has been one of evasion, and this is seen in relation to his three children, his overbearing wife, his mistress. Evasion has again been possible in his professorial past- something he can now rectify by exposing the fraud known as the Melpham excavation- a 7th century tomb containing a dead Bishop and a fertility symbol- which had been a deliberate hoa on the part of a now deceased friend and colleague. At first maintaining a diffident distance, Middleton finally takes his stand and exposes the deception behind the""dig"" ....Something of an intellectual marathon, in which Mr. Wilson's ironic brilliance is as easy winner the general reader may be outstripped. It will undoubtedly earn critical attention and qualified admiration and Evelyn Waugh's audience will be the closest counterpart.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1956
Publisher: Viking