BEYOND SILENCE by Eleanor Cameron


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Cameron's latest novel quivers with the self-consciousness of serious fantasy, but the time-theories she skirts so vaguely are unoriginal; and though she evokes ""the new hypotheses of physics"" and refers to ""the hunting of the quark,"" these ideas aren't explored or their sense of excitement conveyed. Rather, they are borrowed to dress up fanciful ideas of the supranormal. Similarly, as if to borrow class, there are gratuitous references such as the comparison of a character's appearance to that of ""the young D. H. Lawrence."" The story concerns 15-year-old Andrew Cames, visiting in Scotland with his Scottish-born father and still disturbed over the sudden death of his Viet-vet older brother. (Even the family's anguish over Vietnam is woodenly predictable.) En route to Scotland Andrew has one of what will be a series of sharp visions of the past; they turn out to be linked with Deirdre, the young woman of 80 years ago whose undelivered letter to a previous Andrew Cames is now delivered to the young Andrew's hands. Through his growing preoccupation and fleeting contact with Deirdre, Andrew comes to terms with his long-suppressed guilt over his brother's death. To be sure, his pre-existing distress can help to explain his unusual susceptibility to his supranormal experiences. However, both hero and author seem to approach the Deirdre episodes with undue solemnity. There is one moment fairly late in the story when Andrew participates in a scene Deirdre had mentioned in the letter--thus occasioning his wonder at ""the wicked, unanswerable, incomprehensible, unbroken circle"" in which past and present act on one another. Otherwise there is little drama in Deirdre's own story: A pitiful cry for help Andrew hears early on echoes only her momentary terror when stuck in a dumbwaiter during childhood play with his namesake. The ideas these recurrences inspire are standard to time fantasy, and the writing is hackneyed ("". . . I was aware of a sudden leap of the blood so sharp that it sent a stab of pain up through my body"") and pseudopoetical ("". . . when I first kissed her, off behind the trees in the rustling, laughter-filled dusk at a class picnic, and knew for the first time to the core of my being what maleness meant. . . "").

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1981
Publisher: Dutton