THE ICE SAINTS by Frank Tuohy
Kirkus Star


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The Ice Saints, frozen in a stance of complete hopelessness, are the Poles, casualties of the Cold War. This first novel confirms the exceptional talent shown in Tuchy's collection of short stories, The Admiral and the Nuns. Through a remarkable control and sharpened vision he catches the depersonalized, suppressive, furtive climate of life within this Iron Curtained country where existence is as grey as the sky above and the houses below. Still the novel itself is attractive to read, partly because of its English heroine Rose, who comes there on a visit to her sister, Janet, married to Witold Rudowski, a teacher at the local university in Biala Gora. There are marvelous contrasts between Biala Gora, a deadspot to begin with, and Krakow with its ""signs and relics and memorials,"" reminders of what they once were, and Warsaw where nothing was left. ""They are all survivors, by mistake."" The story concerns Rose's attempt to retrieve her nephew, Tadeusz, and take him back to England. His parents, who agree on nothing to begin with, argue over the offer. Witold, who is on the ""right side"" of the Establishment, is mostly concerned with retaining his position as an English teacher (using his text which is an awkward primer of Peoples' Democracy propaganda). Then there is Adam, to whom Rose is attracted. He is a ""noble survivor from the past"" whom she invests with a certain romanticism. But nothing is to be reclaimed here and everything fails; Rose leaves them all behind in ""this landscape waiting for explanation."" Explanation, yes, but it may never have a finer evocation than it has here in the mood so successfully established and sustained.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1964
Publisher: Scribners