THE VISITORS: The Stories of Ronald Blythe by Ronald Blythe

THE VISITORS: The Stories of Ronald Blythe

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Twenty short stories, many with a melancholy undercurrent, set in isolated rural or suburban communities, by the author of trenchant nonfiction portraits of, mainly, Suffolk (England) villagers (Akenfield, 1969; The View in Winter, 1979). Three stories explore the aridity of resentment, even hatred, of those unnourished by parental love or those emotionally unsustained. In ""Bride Michael,"" a middle-aged widow avenges herself on the dead husband who took passion with him, and on a cordially remote father, by seducing a young religious evangelist, creating another, like herself, with ""no hope, no grounds for privilege."" A young man, from childhood on in India nurturing a bitterness at the father and the mistress (who robbed him, he felt, of his English heritage of mother, cottage, pond and swans) reassesses the two resented ""stem-like people"" after a sobering visit to his birthplace and a drained pond with swans forever gone. In ""Period Return"" (a return to ""home"" in England from India), a boy is again exiled by the father he hates--""the finest cultured pearl imaginable."" There are profiles of some likable, mildly pitiable eccentrics and one charmer: an elderly exmemsahib who relives the past in the ""fetid peace"" of her drawing room; two splintery women who play at fitting out an invisible live-in man; and a restless ex-urbanite who delights her country neighbors while desperately seeking some sexual diversion from boredom. There is a handful of ghost tales, the most chilling of which is ""Immediate Possession,"" a fanciful twist on ""The Rocking Horse Winner,"" in which the malignant spirit of a lonely governess might have something to do with why an exhausted little boy on a seesaw rides on and on. . . Blythe also includes several good-natured, amusing vignettes concerning the wise saws and not-so-wise tippling of Suffolk elder Uncle Jake, set in the heady natural wonders of the country. Although in these early works Blythe had a tendency to put too high a color or too pat a sentimental/symbolic tag on his situations, they are still generally inviting tales with a fragrant country background and a fresh and nimble style.

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich