THE LIE OF THE LAND by Haydn Middleton


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A paler variation--albeit still an enthralling one--of Middleton's magical fast (The People in the Picture, 1988)--as again a young Englishwoman is spellbound by a dynamic male seemingly arisen from British myth. Forty years old but lean and tall David Nennius makes a powerful impression on lovely, married Rachel when he shows up drunk at the Samaritans Center in Oxford where she does volunteer social work. David tells her he's going to die, mentions a woman who haunts him, and then leaves. Days later, an overwrought David, watched by his gay and adoring housemate, Quinn, badly beats a drunk in a public bathroom. Quinn goes to the Center and begs Rachel to help his distraught friend; soon after, David returns to the Center and persuades Rachel to have a drink with him--but he can't bring himself to confess the source of his woes. Quinn, however, happens upon David's third-person memoir; occupying a quarter of the novel, it's the eerie tale of how David, son of a poor mother and a rapist, grows up believing himself to be the "son of the sky"--a citizen of the Shadow Kingdom of Albion, England, and eternal paramour of Albion's jealous feminine spirit, who will punish his love for any other woman. Indeed, after he married and fathered a child, David lost both wife and son when, finding a drunk molesting his son in a public bathroom, he strangled the drunk. Is David's brutal conception and sin of murder all that haunt him now? Or is he really a prisoner of Albion? Though torn between David and her loving husband, Rachel aims to save David; and in Middleton's romantic world, the love of a good woman is all it takes. Full of swirling emotion, with strong narrative drive and, in David, a magnetic core character. But despite Middleton's pinpoint prose, his fantastic elements are confusedly murky; here's an author whose big talents ache for a new--probably nomnythological--theme.

ISBN: 345-35864-3
Publisher: Ballantine
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