THE FEATHERS OF DEATH by Simon Raven

THE FEATHERS OF DEATH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A first novel (Raven has been a contributor to Punch, The Spectator) introduces a writer of clearly demonstrable gifts, applied to a suspect theme but handled with cool attachment. This, along with its smarting irony, and its knowledgeable background of British military life (here, a rather privileged mounted foot regiment) has earned some comparison with Waugh, although the broader sense of conscience, whether ethical or religious, which gives Waugh's work a more lasting importance, is absent. Raven's novel is concerned with the anomalies and ambiguities which surround an unfortunate incident in Kenya, where Alastair Lynch, an officer, intelligent, likeable, self- indulgent, shoots the beautiful but not too bright drummer boy, Harley, whom he had seduced. The inquiry, as first conducted by another officer, Duthwaite, who wanted tidy answers to a messy business, leads on to a trial. Here it must be determined whether Lynch is innocent as claimed; that he had killed Harley for disobeying orders during a small bivouac action; or guilty, as charged by Simes, who entertained a purer friendship for the boy and says that Lynch had shot him out of jealousy. The outcome, while Lynch is found not guilty, leaves the reader- even Lynch- to speculate over the still doubtful motivation.... Raven, a very capable writer, subtle, firm, assured, has given his story a clearcut excitement; perhaps it is the worthlessness of Lynch which as much as anything depreciates its real value.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1959
Publisher: Simon & Schuster