ORLANDO KING by Isabel Colegate


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Only one of Miss Colegate's novels has appeared here prior to this--Statues in a Garden (1966). She's a relatively young writer of decorous skills perhaps more attuned to her native England where she has had admiring attention; her perceptions are primarily directed by her intellect so that one is more likely to observe rather than become engaged in the proceedings; and she synchronizes her stories with the socio-political life of earlier periods, this time one which extends from about 1930 to the beginnings of World War II. Orlando King is illegitimate and to a degree this contributes to the rather superficial anonymity of which he (or the novel) is to a degree guilty: there will be a second volume, Orlando at the Brazen Threshold (hopefully-a title change) in which he may gain greater definition. Brought up by a don on Brittany's island of Locmariaquar, Orlando comes to London as a young man, attractive to both sexes, inexperienced, and not as ambitious as his rapid rise would indicate. From his inconspicuous beginnings, he achieves great wealth and political power (a seat in the House of Commons) as he acquires (rather than usurps) the wife, business holdings and two sons of his former patron. Devotedly married to Judith, or so he contends, he also has casual sexual episodes with other women, and Judith, who always seems to be ""sniffing,"" finally becomes intransigently peckish about the whole thing. At the close, the start of the war, he is the casualty of a delayed action bomb and is about to abnegate the world which was always too much with him. Again the whole background is sharply, shrewdly annotated and the novel holds your attention without making any strong demands on it.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1969
Publisher: Knopf