IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOOD by Iain Chrichton Smith


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From prolific Scottish novelist and poet Chrichton (A Field Full of Folk, 1982; The Search, 1983; The Tenement, 1985), a sentimental but occasionally gripping tale of a middle-aged writer's nervous breakdown. Ralph Simmons is a novelist who lives in a small Scottish village with his wife, Linda. After a horrific vacation in Yugoslavia with Linda and her mother, Ralph begins to fall apart. He's certain Linda is having him watched, that she's having an affair (with taxi drivers, or strangers he sees her chatting with on the train)--that, in fact, she's masterminding a plot to kill him. After a desparate flight to Glasgow, Simmons returns to his village, attempts suicide, and is saved at the last minute by long-suffering Linda, who puts him in a mental asylum. At first, he continues to think he's living in a world of ""perpetual betrayal"" and that the asylum's patients and doctors are actors in the elaborate plot to take his life; soon, however, he comes to himself, realizes he's broken down through overwork, and understands that reality is ""far more fragile than he thought."" In the end, he's reunited with Linda: ""Love was what moved the stars and the other planets and kept us steady in the stormy astronomy of reality."" Simmons' first moments of madness are extremely convincing, even chilling; but the novel soon degenerates into treacly didacticism and simplistic pyschological character analysis. In all: a disappointment.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Victor Gollancz-- dist. by David & Charles