CHINA by Alan Wall
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An old man reckons up the fortunes of his life, written with touching English restraint.

Digby Walton has had a good inning, as they say in Britain, and he’s more than ready to move on. The heir to a ceramics fortune, Digby grew up in a manor house and, despite a brief stint in the army, saw very little of the world other than the family business. Thus, sheltered by circumstance and naïve by nature, he was somewhat unprepared for the emotional demands of family life, and his marriage to a Maltese immigrant of humble origins went badly: Digby’s dull and undemonstrative behavior as a husband caused the fiery Victoria eventually to tire of him and move back with her parents. He hasn’t fared much better with his son: Theo is a spoiled and shiftless lad who can’t hold down a job, blames his father for his own failings, and accuses him of driving his mother to despair. Digby finds some solace in the company of his friend Daisy, a faded actress whose son Howard (a demented anarchist who writes a violently seditious online blog) provides her with ample parental woes of her own. As Digby putters about on a history of the family business, Daisy tries to track down Howard, who was last heard from in Thailand and has begun posting bomb-making techniques on his Web site. Theo, in the meantime, has been thrown out of the house by his fed-up wife Jill and spends most of his time hanging out with jazz musicians and dictating a rambling, accusatory letter to Digby onto a tape recorder. No, this isn’t Beckett. It’s not even Sartre—for, the end, British author Wall (The Lightning Cage, 2003, etc.) manages, inexplicably but credibly, to wrap up the loose strands of these ostensibly meaningless lives into one large interconnected and harmonious strand.

Witty, convincing, and quite moving: a touching portrait of private grief and redemption.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-32779-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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