THE MISSING WORLD by Margot Livesey



A penetrating analysis of the ways in which desire misleads and entangles us, set in modern London, by Scottish author Livesey (Criminals,1996, etc.). The chilly and manipulative Jonathan is given what he at first takes to be an astonishing reprieve. His longtime lover, Hazel, has left him, disgusted by his lies and his other liasons. Then she’s struck by a car, and among the effects of the accident is a loss of recent memory: She can recollect her relationship with Jonathan, but not that it ended. Her parents, anxious to have someone look after her, urge Jonathan to take her back to his house, and he does, neglecting to tell her about his unfaithfulness or her departure. Hazel, who suffers from seizures, is at first an invalid, and later something more like a prisoner. An unlikely pair of figures, drawn to the house by chance, begin to take a lively interest in her life. Freddie, an expatriate American roofer fascinated by illness, comes to repair Jonathan’s leaking roof. He is at first intrigued by Hazel’s odd case, then finds himself more and more anxious to protect her. Charlotte, a down-on-her-luck actress, broke, pursued by creditors, and with a dead-end career, moves in with her sister, who is serving as Hazel’s nurse. Charlotte is equally fascinated by Hazel’s case, and is even more entranced by Freddie. A complicated set of misunderstandings ensue; Charlotte draws closer to Freddie, and Jonathan finds it ever more difficult to juggle the lies he’s told Hazel. Gradually, her memory begins to return. Freddie and Charlotte concoct a desperate, and somewhat melodramatic, plan to spring Hazel from her vaguely threatening captivity, Jonathan reacts violently, and each discovers the sad costs of the deceptions they have either spun or been caught up in. Livesey’s narrative often seems analytical, distant, devoid of visible emotion, but these four odd figures are each precisely rendered and entirely believable. And their sad discoveries about themselves ring true. A somber novel, possessing great cumulative force.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-40581-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999


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