British novelist Campbell’s second, regrettable lacking the freewheeling wit of Slave to Fashion (2001).
Alice Duclos, an eccentric young woman with an interest in natural history, catches the fancy of the equally young Andrew Heathley, a self-styled expert on rare books at Enderby’s, a somewhat disreputable London auction house. They meet at a park to ponder the wallabies and flamingoes, and fall in . . . something. Like? Lust? Alice can’t decide. She’s busy obsessing over such odd happenstances as the death of a Serbian boy in a car accident, which she witnessed and cannot get out of her mind, crowded though it is with memories of her strange father, icy mother, and the random cruelty of life. Alice toys with fantasies of chucking it all and moving to Madagascar to commune with lemurs (or clouds). At least Andrew seems to understand about things like the dead boy and doesn’t want to change her. He’s as understanding as her friend Odette, who considers Alice a genius, and he lets her peruse a priceless first edition of Audubon’s Birds of America to her heart’s content. Perhaps this is love—but what is love? That kind of musing is typical of the author’s tendency to indulge in erudite (and irritating) mooniness.
Chick-lit for intellectuals.