MARIA by Curtis Bok


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This is presumably judge Bok's first novel, and some may remember the incisive intellect and passionate, civilized appeal of his Star Wormwood (1959), a reconstruction of a trial case. This novel however is more properly a tone poem, sonorously elegiac, and the timeless pattern of the seasons parallels the pull of human life and death. To an island, in the waters of labrador, comes a European sailor, Jahn Halsey, and there he falls in love with the crippled girl Maria, living alone with her paralized father who has reared and educated her after the sea had taken her mother and eventually her brother. But Maria's father, Pierre Soulevent, is now a dying man, and Maria, anxious that Jahn's choice should be a free one, sends him away after the breaking of the ice and completes the death watch alone.... A very slender story is subdued by the spectacle of the sea in its infinite variety and implacable challenge; spiritual and philosophical insights shade the eternal elemental truths and provide an ennobling perspective of man and his universe. Still-the average reader will not be easily engaged.

Publisher: Knopf