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Britisher Vickers (Instances of Number 3, 2002, etc.) again well mixes the metaphysical and the mundane as the author of the world’s bestselling book tries to turn the original into a modern soap.

Deftly avoiding either whimsy or preaching, Vickers sets her tale in Great Calne, a picturesque village in Devon with contemporary problems: drugs, alcoholism, sexual abuse. There, Mr. Golightly, CEO of a worldwide business, rents a cottage while he tries to write. He has a laptop and has learned how to e-mail, but he finds settling down to compose not easy. Constant distractions, some more welcome than others, come from temptations like the village pub, where, as a crossword addict, he enjoys doing puzzles with Luke, a poet, over a pint of beer, or listening to CDs with young Johnny, who reminds him of his own dead son. Johnny and a neighbor, the recently widowed Ellen, comprise the heart of the story. Soon after Mr. Golightly finds Johnny under his car (hiding from his abusive stepfather), the boy is spending time with him, fixing his appliances and doing research via the computer. While out walking, Ellen hears a voice from a bush commanding her to “tell them “ about love. As she puzzles over this, she shelters Jos, an escaped convict, hires Jackson, a local builder, and is questioned by Brian, a vindictive prison officer. When Ellen learns that Jos, who was unfairly incarcerated, is the father of Johnny, she heads with him to a place on the moor where Rosie, Johnny’s runaway mother, often left messages. But Jackson, in love with Ellen and in a jealous drunken state, has told Brian that he saw a man with Ellen. And Brian, who has secrets, too, forces Johnny to accompany him to the moor. With both Jos and Johnny in danger, Ellen acts. And a rueful Mr. Golightly, powerless to intervene, decides not to write an update—the universe, he observes, survives without him.

A profound and satisfying read: the characters are likable, the whole hangs together.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-374-21489-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2003


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