SHADE THOSE LAURELS by Cyril Connolly

SHADE THOSE LAURELS

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An elegant, hyperliterary thriller by the late English critic and novelist. Left unfinished at Connolly's death, it has been completed by Oxford scholar and poet Peter Levi. Stephen Kemble, the narrator, is ``an unimportant novel reviewer'' assigned to write the obituary of the very important novelist Sir Mortimer Gussage for the files of a London newspaper. But he manages to lose the obituary--or is it stolen?--while visiting Sir Mortimer at his Wiltshire home. On the morning after Kemble's arrival, Sir Mortimer is found dead, with the obituary on his pillow and a plate of poisonous fruit on his nightstand. Murder? Suicide? Or a simple heart attack? Kemble's attempt to unravel the mystery of Sir Mortimer's death uncovers what turn out to be the even greater mysteries of the old man's life--the uncertain authorship of his books, the undefined status of his ``houseguests,'' the strange goings-on of a secret society called the Gassendi Club--and embroil him in a weird love triangle with Sir Mortimer's widow and daughter. Once the mystery is solved, the Freudian elements of the plot stand forth to reveal a story that is less a matter of crime than aesthetics. Connolly's young writer-- who peers into the remains of his elder--is, in one sense, the real killer of the book, since he ends up occupying the role left vacant by his precursor's death. What begins as a mystery ends as a fable- -a rather cynical metaphor of literary ambition and success. Masterful, sophisticated, and endlessly witty. Levi's portions are unobtrusive and true to the tone set by Connolly. A delightful conceit.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40433-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991