CITY OF GATES by Janice Elliott


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 English writer Elliott, a necromancer who dangles metaphysical concepts of Time, Love, and the Divine plus other headachy abstractions, sets her latest morality playground in the ancient city of Jerusalem--a cat's cradle of invisible lines ``ever- shifting between faith and non-faith and wrong faith, past and present, fantasy and the impossibility of truth.'' As in Elliott's Dr. Gruber's Daughter (1988), events and characters circle around a boardinghouse--here, that of Eugenia Muna, for whom Time is a loop (Mohammed on his flying fanciful steed was a lovely sight; Proust's diet was irritating; and Freud was on for a brief visit) and who cooks (like Countess Olga in Gruber) awful offal, but she will leave earth's carrion, at the close, to cook a sacred carp, which, it is said, harbors souls. Among the pilgrims of various stripe: bright-haired Daisy, for whom the richness of the city is ``like someone with a temperature''; crane-limbed Thomas Curtis, following the path of a 17th-century skeptic who ``fell into faith''; the Reverend Pooley, occasional aesthete and Anglican; and, in the garden, ``Miss Mary'' (Mary/Isis/Demeter--well, you get the idea). At Magdalene's brothel/cafe three friends meet: Rabbi Solomon; Hamil the minor imam; and Fedor, the man-without-a-past and adorer of Eugenia, his shelter and home. Meanwhile, two unhappy travelers to Jerusalem, set to rescue Thomas and Daisy respectively, are in hellish transit--in bleak and deadly places. On earth there are storms and rumors of more wars, a Crucifixion and a Birth. Lovers find one another, and love, as always, is ringed with hope, among old stones, a ``real world of telegrams and anger,'' and gates through which three Messiahs (probably one anyway, says Eugenia) may enter. A lavishly allusive narrative that entertains tantalizing possibility, identity switches, and brightly chattering heads. Admirers of Elliott's teasing wit and wisdom will find more here.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-340-57115-2
Page count: 190pp
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993


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