SEASON IN PURGATORY by Thomas Keneally


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This time, always a different time for Keneally, he's written one of his more modest novels of a WW II year spent by Pelham, a young English medico, on the Dalmatian island of Mus in a small partisan hospital where triage is the only option. Ghastly casualties stream in to be sealed up alive or rather dead in plaster of Paris; drugs, scavenged from the Germans, are at a minimum; blood and wine are the only inexhaustible native products. Pelham, anxious to become an eminent orthopedic surgeon, could not handle the small hospital alone were it not for Moja Javich, an elegant, apolitical woman of great charm (Tito is her close friend). Keneally is susceptible to Joans of Arc, but Moja might just as easily remind you of Marlene Dietrich. Here at Mus, a theater of war comparable to ""what an appendix is to the human body,"" the days and nights pass. Pelham is a naive, narrow sort to begin with; but his love affair with Moja, thirteen years older and a hundred wiser, will prepare him for that other world once the ""season in purgatory"" ends and Moja is sent away (""Our little love. . . doesn't count. The tides of history count""). The ideological inflection is much scantier than in Keneally's last two books, though Pelham will be changed by the barbarous reprisals on both sides. However it is Moja who carries the book as well as the spirit of this isolated outpost--its crazy courage along with a little love, be it only a ""gesture in the face of death."" Whether any of this has a toehold in actuality is hard to say, but Keneally makes the experience, however distant in time and place, wholly real, present, and involving.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1976
ISBN: 0156798506
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich