THE DEVIL'S CHIMNEY by Anne Landsman


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 A colorful, moody but unwieldy debut set in the parched highlands of South Africa. Connie, an aged alcoholic, is obsessed with the past--not only her own, which ceased to advance beyond the delivery of what she believed to be a stillborn child many decades ago, but also that of an infamous ostrich farmer's wife, whose world came crashing down on the eve of WW I with the birth of her own child. Miss Beatrice and Mr. Henry were the oddest of odd couples, dotty English ÇmigrÇs in a harsh landscape dotted with the occasional black-and-white plumage of a male ostrich. When Mr. Henry went mad and vanished over the horizon, Miss Beatrice's fair hair and blue eyes drew her neighbor, the married, successful Jewish farmer Jacobs, like a beacon; after frenzied pairings with him, she also couples with the farm's black foreman, September, and soon thereafter finds she's pregnant. Whereupon Mr. Henry returns, no less strange and a whole lot meaner. He decides to pluck every last ostrich on his ranch before going back to England. In doing so he kills September, then is himself kicked to death by a breeding pair of his flock whom he had the stupidity to disturb on their nest. Miss Beatrice, meanwhile, is in labor, and when the baby proves to be the foreman's she runs off to hide it from September's wife--but she's followed. Mulling over all of this in her muddled state brings Connie to a painful understanding, too late to do her any good, of what happened to her own child. Compelling images of farm life and the distortions of fevered (or pickled) imaginations are the real strengths here, but the plot in its interlocking layers of narrative is far too complex for this treatment to sustain. (Quality Paperback Book Club selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1997
ISBN: 1-56947-101-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1997