Mr. Jones, a Welsh teacher and poet, is represented as ""fresh and buoyant"" in his previous novels, but this present one, rather than ""loving"" and ""funny"" (despite jacket copy), is a murkily symbolic tale. A handsome boy-stranger, Karl, is fished out of the river-sewer of a Welsh village and becomes the idol of the boy narrator, Dewi. Perhaps Karl is an alter-ego, who represents Dewi's dreams of escape, since his tales of adventures, wealth, travels are told in a village which, while folksy and beautifully located, is inhabited by a Goya-esque collection of idiots and grotesques. Perhaps Karl also represents Dewi's dreams of revenge, for an uncommon number of these people (including Dewi's mother and father, a hated teacher, and a hated neighbor) meet uncommonly unpleasant ends. Many of these scenes have power and hypnotic reality, but since the symbolism and/or objective viewpoint remain unclear, the book seems to be not Dewi's, but the author's eery, often ugly attack upon provincial humanity, with strange glimpses of the countryside and boyhood hopes it has defiled.