THE LITTLE PEOPLE by MacDonald Harris


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Bonner Foley is a Johns Hopkins medievalist on leave in London to do research. But something unexplained suddenly assails him: he can't bear to be in any enclosure--building or car--that is constructed wholly or in part from iron. This limits him severely, of course, and seems to a psychiatrist he consults a sure sign of breakdown. So he's hospitalized. Upon release, he's invited to recuperate at the home of a friend, James Boswin. James is a wealthy newspaper magnate, living with his wife and two eligible daughters--Sylvie and Stasha--in a large house near the Val, in Waldon Forest, now part of the National Trust. Bonner finds himself quickly all but pushed into the arms of Sylvie, an ethereal girl who plays the piano and informs Bonnet after the wedding that the marriage will be a chaste one. The carnal part, so it happens, will be left to Stasha--but before that, in a state of chastity, Bonner has been allowed to come upon, in the forest, at night, a band of faeries, the Little People. He's met the conditions by which they can be visible to a human: someone sexless, iron-less, and very quiet. One night, entranced, Bonner is even allowed to participate in the setting-free of the estate's deer--a scene filled with moonlight and some of Harris' most opalescent writing. But the book all too tightly resembles every other recent Harris novel (Screenplay, The Treasure of Sainte Foy, Tenth): a meandering set-up, the long postponement of any plot, everything circling a central piece of arcane pedantry. Here it happens to be faeries, with every character pitching in to provide another element to illustrate a little-known or curious fact/theory. Harris is so entranced with the bookishness and hidden references that he seems to forget to bring the book to any kind of life; it stays odd enough, tartly eccentric--but it's never really charming. No faeries' kiss here.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow