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A superior first novel by a young English writer whose short stories have appeared in various literary magazines--though, to be sure, first novel-ish in its autobiographical predispositions and its preoccupations with the enterprise of fiction writing. Taylor's voice makes itself heard in the ruminations of the book's narrator, David Castell, a writer living in a village in an unnamed country that sounds at times like Forster's India, at times like Marquez's South America. Interspersed with the strange events unfolding in the village--a brothel-keeper named Mouzookseem is expelled, returns as the new revolutionary government's comissioner of police, only to be proven shortly thereafter a fraud--are tales of Castell's Oxford days and memories of his father. Mr. Castell, senior, an insurance broker, is also an enthusiast of East Anglian history, devoted to proving his wife's family's kinship with the fifth-century Wuffing kings of England's eastern shore. His son, David, goes off to Oxford to befriend an attractive assortment of Wildean eccentrics and to learn that an egregious don has stopped publication of his father's history of East Anglia in order to pilfer from it for a work of his own after the elder Castell's death. By the time of his father's demise, David is writing copy for a London ad firm, and writing fiction, too--fiction in which history is wondrously manipulable, since, "". . .we are as one in the great mass of fact and fancy, plausible hypothesis and whimsical speculation."" Like his narrator, Taylor is interested in the ambiguous open spaces between known facts. He is, as well, an elegant writer from whom more good things must surely come.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles