LORIEN LOST by Michael King


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 A dreamy first novel, owing more than a little to Lewis Carroll, that's set in a wholly imaginary Victorian England. Rather than a looking-glass, King's meek hero, Milton Radcliffe, plunges within paintings to escape the real world. He is particularly fond of those painted by the mysterious Jonathan Larking, and even falls in love with Larking's evocation of his wife, Lorien. Milton and Lorien while away the hours in Larking Land, an enchanted and timeless place of oat fields and flowering meadows, pipe-smoking, loquacious farm animals, and, less happily, foul dragons. Milton loves the supernal Lorien and Larking Land so much he can hardly bear to return to reality, but then the wing of his mansion where his paintings are housed burns. Woebegone Milton leaves the mansion gates, wanders for the first time ever down the London streets and happens upon Larking's lost journals in an obscure bookshop. He decides to mount an expedition to remote (in this universe) Devonshire, where Larking lived with the real-world Lorien and did much of his painting. Rivals emerge: the unscrupulous curator of a wax museum, who wants to sculpt Milton, trapping him in reality; and another collector, a ruthless sort who pushes horses and men beyond endurance, all the while brandishing a cane like some fugitive from a gothic tale. Milton never finds Lorien, but in the real world he's joined by Heather, and slowly, enveloping the story like rising waters, Larking Land takes over as the real world drops away. It's a skewed, uneasily pleasant landscape that fades, dreamlike, into nothingness. There are even signs announcing ``World's End.'' Quirkily charming in a literary way, though many readers will be put off by Milton's lack of substance--or that of any other of King's characters.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14349-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996