THE TRICK OF IT by Michael Frayn


Email this review


A comic whirligig by Frayn, author of five previous novels (most published in the US in the late 60's) and the playwright responsible for such British and American hits as Noises Off and Benefactors. Now, he creates the viewpoint of a frighteningly little man who puts a temporary blight on English letters by marrying perhaps the greatest living novelist, known here simply as JL. We never learn the little man's name, since the story is composed of his rambling, embarrassingly self-revelatory letters. However, we do know that he teaches English at a university near London and is preparing a critical study of JL when he finds the nerve to invite her to talk to his students, and ends spending the night with the great lady in an uncomfortable single bed--a situation he sees metaphorically, of course: ""There she was, comfortably ensconced in the soft centre of English letters, not even aware that there were others clinging painfully to their outer edges."" JL turns out to be an extremely malleable soul whose genius stems from her penchant for getting involved in the messy lives of others. When the professor marries her and takes her to a secluded country house, he can't quite stomach the fact that she commences a book about his sad-sack mother, since he's been expecting to see a fellow something like himself turn up in one of her oeuvres, Soon, he's tampering with her work, whisking her away to the University of Abu Dhabi--why not, can't she write anywhere?--and, God forbid, writing a novel. Frayn's first-person format keeps the novel from shedding much light on JL's creative process. Still, the result is comically succulent enough for those who like their professors roasted.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0312421443
Publisher: Viking