JUDGMENT DAY by Penelope Lively
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Lively's last novel, Treasures of Time, hunkered down solidly upon themes of antiquities, history, and class; here she does something similar, but with a more tapestry-like narrative distribution meant to illustrate the almost medieval wantonness of fate, even in modern-dress. Laddenham is a village two hours north of London. Its oldest abiding structure is its church, St. Peter and St. Paul (hard against an Amoco station). George Radwell is the vicar, tonelessly tending to a flock of old pensioners and the new arrivals who work at the local electronics company. And when the church requires massive structural renovations, there's no money for the work--so a young mother named Clare Paling, new to Laddenham and herself an agnostic, suggests a spectacle-drama recreating some of the church's more vivid--and incidentally violent--past: admission could be charged, money raised. Around this central event Lively spins a resonant clutch of subplots: the vicar's swaddled lust for Clare; her own unease with faith and the past; a widowed sexton's spiritual rebirth as the stand-in parent for a local boy who's been abandoned by divorce; the pageant's--and the church's--destruction at the hands of motorcycling vandals. And the resulting whirr is the sound of inexplicable destiny, the utter chanciness (or perhaps not?) of what happens when to whom. Done with the superior, well-oiled control exhibited in Treasures of Time, this successor is as satisfying in its seriousness as it is discreet in its aims.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 1981
ISBN: 0802139663
Publisher: Doubleday