THE RAPE OF ST. CLARE by Philip Trewinnard


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This confectionary farce from Britain is wild and irreverent, but the froth of antic wit can't cover the novel's insubstantial characters and a plot that shows more whim than craft. Pirana House Investments, a multinational conglomerate, plans to buy the ancestral home and land of the bankrupt Lord (Freddie) St. Clare. Mervyn Sharldey, a planner in Pirana's Leisure & Pleasure division, is attracted to this Cornwall fishing village for its potential tourism value, but he doesn't know that his superiors plan not a holiday center but a vast experimental site for the development of Profung-17, a miracle food that is odorless, colorless, and flavorless. The town's stuffy vicar opposes the company's plans; sides are drawn. In the meantime, Freddie's wooing of a lovely widower is complicated by bumbling rivals. Also in the stew are a lovelorn teen, an incompetent drug squad from New Scotland Yard, a meddlesome American, and Freddie's corpulent daughter. All their various plights add to the climactic mayhem at the annual local festival that features a melee called Cornish hurling, a hybrid of rugby, wrestling, and capture-the-flag that involves every man in the village. The cast, unlike those of P. G. Wodehouse or Tom Sharpe entertainments, evoke some laughs but no sympathy. They are overwhelmed by the author's quick sarcastic humor, and rather than having specific foibles, each is just as addlebrained, phony, and self-serving as the next. Some, too, are sitcom clichÉs: the pompous vicar, the BBC interviewer Soozie Smiles, the boss who claims all of Sharkley's ideas as his own. All in all, a riot without a cause.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
Publisher: New English Library--dist. by David & Charles