SANDMOUTH by Ronald Frame


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From the British author of Winter Journey and A Long Weekend with Marcel Proust, an elegantly written but finally directionless ensemble piece depicting the goings-on in a little English town in the 1950's. Sandmouth is a lovely old coastal village managing to keep its head above water very well, thank you--there's a boys' prep school, some industry, a small amount of tourism. But, of course, the place is practically bursting from intrigue and sexual tension: Married prep-school headmaster Mr. Symington. Berry lusts after a new teacher who has come to town in secret search of an inheritance; Miss Meredith Vane, Sandmouth's only published author, has lesbian encounters with low-rent girls from London; while the proper Miss Spink--newly and unfairly fired from her job as a shop-clerk--perhaps wishes she could. And then there's the thoroughly libidinous construction tycoon, Norman Pargiter, who skulks after anything in skirts; and banker Howard Trevis, who lusts after his fellow man; and hairdresser Kenneth Gutteridge, who has no deep, clark sexual secrets but does water the shampoo. What they all have in common is a 16-year-old girl named Tilly Moscombe--a Faulknerian character who's essentially retarded, thinks in an unfortunate stream-of-consciousness (""Tilly tell, please, man lady, trousers, friend, friends, you, me""), and spends all her time spying on people who appear to indulge in a sexual peccadillo a minute--so that when the poor girl is found murdered at the end, half the town is suspect. Frame has humor and a felicitous style, but he never resolves either, his murder or his novel; the book drifts from vignette to vignette, while the small-town claustrophobia is quite standard.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1987
Publisher: Knopf