THE BROCKEN by Pamela Hill


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 Another of Hill's acidulous little gems featuring serenely horrid people, victims who either drop passively from the twisted family tree, or hurtle down spitting, along with blackly comic turns of fortune fueled by monstrous acts. Here, a London banking family is reduced, at the close, to one pragmatic nasty passing the torch and to an incestuous relationship in thrilling and intricate bloom. Banker Nicholas Crowbetter--married to a mildly despised wife, diverted off and on by the innocent servant, Maud, whom he'd methodically debauched (and later consigned to the streets)--is devoured by lust for the even more lustful Melanie, married to a German baron (handily dispatched). While the affair blazes on and Melanie gives birth to son Felix, Nicholas has to deal with the destinies of his nieces. In spite of Nicholas's efforts, the plain, large, whiny Athene marries a tiny, disagreeable fortune hunter (his grimly dutiful lovemaking like ``the bouncing of a pea on a drum''); and then Nicholas forces pretty, charming Sarah to marry a titled lump with a truly terrible mother. Sarah's only happy moment occurs, years later, when Felix visits and gets her pregnant before vanishing, literally, without a trace. As for Felix, who's adored mother Melanie (she's been back in Vienna for years)--he's had arduous years of penance for the most shocking of depraved acts in which he--like Sarah and Maud--was served as on a platter to others' slavering needs and greeds. It all ends with a social evening during which two young things--obviously headed for love and marriage--seem to bear a remarkable resemblance to each other. Hill's in top form in this 19th-century family grotesque--as neat and slyly wicked as a Gorey illustration.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06310-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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