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The hart lived in a thicket close by a shimmering pool. He had been born in that thicket on a spring morning before the sun had quite gained the sky. . . He was an albino, born weak and white on that clear spring day." When loner Richard Plante, a sickly, bookish orphan of twelve, first sees the white hart "by the shimmering pool," he knows it's a unicorn. Heather Fielding, an "enjoyer," is less romantic: "An albino,' she breathed, and then was still." But when the two children meet "by the shimmering pool" (the phrase occurs over a dozen times) Richard talks Heather into believing his version. (" 'A unicorn,' Heather whispered, and then was still.") As each had already determined to tame the deer, they agree that she, as a pure maid, must lure it to her lap. Meanwhile of course the children discover each other--both, it seems, read Gerard Manley Hopkins--and Richard opens up. Then after an uncomfortable dinner when Heather inadvertently betrays their secret to her family and Richard spills Mr. Fielding's wine as he dashes off distressed, each is again convinced that (s)he alone must seek out the animal. But they meet again at midnight by that shimmering pool and the unicorn arrives on cue ("and where it stepped, flowers sprang up") and submits to the maiden. . . But then the hunters' horns signal the dawning of deer season and to save the hart Heather must untie the golden bridle (a yellow ribbon from her nightgown) and send the animal away. . . to a protected reserve. When Richard and Heather are awakened in the woods hours later, the wine-stained dinner napkin, tucked all the while in Heather's bodice, is white and fresh and fragrant. The relevance of this inescapably sexual symbolism however is less clear than the napkin, and the featured ideals of faith and purity, even solo responsibility and shared awakening, remain bloodless and archaic abstractions. To recognize this for the fluttery, self-consciously poetical fabrication it is, only compare the spring-in-November midnight miracle with the similar kitchen blooming in Pinkwater's Blue Moose, above.
Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1975
Publisher: T.Y. Crowell
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1975


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