THE SIEGE by Graham Petrie


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 A more realistic, if less successful, second novel by Petrie (see above). Roger, a London lawyer, follows his art historian wife, Dorothy, to an unnamed country--Lebanon, possibly, or one of the fragments of Yugoslavia--where a brutal civil war is in remission. Dorothy hopes to be the first academic to write of a 400-year-old fresco of the Last Judgement, painted by an obsessed nun named Margaret and recently revealed when an artillery shell slammed into a cathedral. Roger is a weak, whining fellow who's had a long series of affairs. Here, he soon becomes involved with a woman by the name of Eva, who, like Eve, is a temptress and primal force- -and, as it turns out, the embodiment of evil. Roger comes generally under the spell of evil, in fact, and he's in the right spot: Tales of atrocities abound, and there's even a local museum of horrors, along with a director who insists that Roger accept torture as a normal part of life. Meanwhile, Dorothy studies the frightening, sacrilegious fresco's depiction of the horrors of the past inflicted by men (mostly) in the name of Christianity. She discovers Sister Margaret's diaries, which Petrie reproduces as a first-person account of cruel deaths and sexual debauchery altogether reminiscent of Matthew Lewis's 18th-century classic, The Monk. As ``the partisans'' mass in the hills for a last attack, Dorothy seems to become Margaret, although UN troops rescue her before she goes completely bonkers. Silly Roger accompanies Eva to the partisan camp, however, where he faces a kind of ultimate evil. Petrie sets up some intriguing if unattractive elements, but his high style and unrelenting seriousness add up to little in the end--other than rather familiar meditations on the shifting nature of reality, all of them bleak.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56947-076-6
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995