THE WALKING TOUR by Kathryn Davis


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Davis, who seems equal parts Jane Austen and Isak Dinesen, offers a somber fable of longing, frustrated love, and guilt. Once again (The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, 1993, etc.), Davis draws from a variety of genres (the mystery, the novel of manners, the speculative) to assemble her narrative: in part the attempt of a grown, and still despairing, daughter—while on a walking tour of Wales—to pierce the various mysteries surrounding the supposed death of her mother, a brilliant painter and a schizophrenic; and also in part a precise study of the duplicitous interactions among the painter, Carole, her husband, Bobby, and her supposed best friend, Ruth, a novelist, and Coleman, Ruth’s husband. Davis has a keen ear for the brash chat of bright, uncertain, driven people. Bobby and Coleman have become rich as a result of “SnowWrite&RoseRead,” a method that allows readers to interact aggressively with any electronic text, so that the space between reader and writer vanishes. All of this is described by Susan from the vantage point of some point in the 21st century, when the environment is unraveling, society diminishing, technology collapsing. In the decaying ruins of her parents” mansion, Susan sits, using Ruth’s journals, her mother’s letters, and the extensive inquest transcripts, to piece together what happened in Wales. What emerges is a series of betrayals: of Bobby by Coleman, of Carole by Ruth, and of Carole by the ever-bored and amorous Bobby. There is, at the end, a startling suggestion about Carole’s fate, verging on the visionary. Along the way, Davis, in a prose that nicely mingles a cool, ironic tone with exact, perfect descriptions of landscapes and ruins, and of the charged interactions between characters, offers an acidic portrait of the money-mad present, as well as a provocative brief on art’s place and purpose. A complex, tightly packed, ambitious work, by one of the most thoroughly original (and valuable) of contemporary writers. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-94541-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1999


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