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It is more than ten years since The Fox in the Attic and it is amazing how much one remembers or how much, with the assist of this new book, returns in memory to that remarkable first voluem in Hughes' slowly evolving panorama. Usually projects of this sort have a certain consistency beyond the overall intention which he initially defined as a ""long historical novel of my times"" under the portmanteau title ""The Human Predicament."" Thus primarily through his ""blight of the silver spoon"" hero Augustine, actually an aimless and indecisive non-hero, Hughes revisits not only Hitler's emergent years in Germany (a prominent feature of both books) but other parts of the world -- America in the opening and least relevant section, Morocco, and of course back and forth between Augustine's home in England and Bavaria. Many political and social backgrounds of the '20's are witnessed via the concatenation of backgrounds and events -- the working class discontent in Coventry; Augustine's own world of privilege; the castle in Germany whose titled family cannot believe that the Nazi movement is anything more than a brushfire; and the convent where Mitzi (with whom he had earlier fallen in love) is both certain of her vocation and of her ""presentiment"" that greater evil will follow The Night of the Long Knives with which this volume concludes. The failures are several and more than one might have anticipated: Augustine, always the passive spectator, exists even less as the work's linchpin; personal involvement (except perhaps for the episode dealing with his sister's crippling accident) is more subdued; the overall effect is patchier; and Hughes' prose, once buffed to near brilliance in some of the descriptive parts, is only functional this time. It is almost as if the magnitude of the enterprise had winded the author and dimmed his original incentive.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1973
Publisher: Harper & Row