THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE by Haydn Middleton
Kirkus Star

THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this exceptional first novel, Middleton, who lectures on mythology at Oxford, offers an engrossing and affecting modern fairy-tale of a British woman who finds her unhappy life transformed by the disturbing intrusion of a figure from Welsh myth. Middleton snares the reader at once--""It was Jasmin who made the first move, not Lacy""--and never lets go as he weaves his brief but binding tale. Jasmin is 33, an illustrator who's taken the summer off to ponder her lonely, aimless existence. Lacy is a bald-headed youth, mid-20s, to whom Jasmin says hello one day and who proceeds to remold it through a series of unexpected, often frightening turns. At first Lacy appears to be a mere--if vaguely threatening--courter, bringing flowers to Jasmin but also unfathomable and oddly fixated on the photograph in her room of her family, divided by bitterness. And when he takes her on a trip to Wales, rather than seduce her, Lacy regales Jasmin with a moody Welsh folk tale. Lust and fear grow in Jasmin's mind, watered by eerie dreams and Lacy's seeming prophecy of a relative's death. Why is he obsessed with her family? Did he cause the death? Suddenly, Lacy vanishes as kindly Roland King, author of a retelling of the Taliesin myth--of a Welsh hero whose ageless mission is to help those in need--enters it. Jasmin and Roland romance and finally sleep together, a matched pair; but when Lacy reappears, a now-pregnant Jasmin throws herself at him even as he rejects her and involves himself in a crisis that's tearing her family apart. Lacy's maneuvers force Jasmin into facing family feelings--jealousy, fear of abandonment--that have crippled her, and into choosing between emotional bondage and freedom. Finally, Lacy--whom Jasmin now knows is Taliesin, and the spiritual father of her unborn child--says farewell as Roland reappears to share the rest of her life. With a sure hand that knows the little touches that can make fairy tales believable, Middleton guides his swift story and its memorable Lacy and Jasmin right to the emotional heart of the myth it invokes: a marvelous, romantic tale; the debut of a significant new fantasist.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Ballantine