THE CAVE by Robert Penn Warren

THE CAVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here is one of the South's most gifted and versatile writers with a new theme, handled in- for him- a wholly new vein. It is a powerful and haunting and often distastefully crude portrait of a Kentucky hill community, caught up in mass hysteria when one of their young men, war hero Jasper Harrick, disappears in a newly discovered cave. He and the almost vicious son of the parson, Isaac Sumpter, had planned to make a commercial venture of it, a tourist trap- and Jasper goes exploring on his own- and does not come back. The story builds to a wicked crisis; in the process the venalities, the emotional instabilities, the susceptibility of the crowd to a taste for disaster and violence, and the capitalizing of overstrained emotions for virtually a religious revival as they wait at the cave entrance, add up to a cross-section of the people and a revelation of the skeletons in the cupboards-past and present. The Harricks- parents and sons- are central to the action, and much of their story one gets in flashbacks, recriminations; old man Sumpter, playing on the emotional hysteria, gets his converts, his public confessions -- and then, put to the test himself, finds he cannot betray his son in the elaborate lie he has built about Jasper, with himself as hero taking in food and medicine to a man caught by a falling rock way back in the cave. For Isaac has not gone far enough to see; his father goes beyond, and learns the truth- Jasper is dead, but only just dead. Isaac, his son, is really his murderer. It is a tale of muted violence, uninhibited in language and raw sex, but absorbing in the subtle play of human emotions.
Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1959
ISBN: 0813191556
Page count: 428pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1959




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