THE EDGE OF THE ALPHABET by Janet Frame

THE EDGE OF THE ALPHABET

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An impressionistic novel deals with people too desperately lonely to be able to use words as communication and it has many of the virtues, and liabilities, of Faces in the Water, flickering, fragmentary, partially autobiographical account of mental illness. Toby is an epileptic and at the death of his mother, he leaves New Zealand to go to London. On the boat he meets Pat, a displaced Irishman who believes he has lots of friends, but can only treat people as vague possessions. Also on the boat is Zoe, a middle-aged spinster, and while in the ship's hospital, she is surreptitiously kissed by a drunken sailor. This first kiss of her life, by giving reality to her hopes, drives her away from her past and eventually destroys her. Zoe, Toby and Pat arrive in London. Although they know each other, they rarely talk together, but drift, with their dreams, through poor jobs and an ugly, urban loneliness which is painfully, brilliantly described. Finally Zoe communicates again, not in words, but through a sculpture of her lonely world, and realizing that these two recognitions are all she will ever have- she kills herself. Her suicide sets Pat adrift and returns Toby to New Zealand... Depressing, and sometimes too personal in language, the book is also full of the precise and shocking images which enlarge consciousness- in this case of the too common state of incurable isolation.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1962
Publisher: Braziller