THE RATIONALIST by Warwick Collins


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 Eighteenth-century morals are at issue in this hotblooded tale of sweet reason at odds with fleshly delights: an elegant US debut from British novelist and yacht designer Collins. In a power play vaguely reminiscent of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a young, studious physician is the prize contested by an enigmatic widow and his closest friend, the country town's only other doctor. Silas Grange is meticulous and efficient at his work, whether it be lopping off the mangled arm of a sailor, without an anesthetic, or contemplating the sinuous designs of his favorite philosopher, David Hume, but his cool reserve proves inadequate when Mrs. Quill presents him with an immodest proposal one afternoon. Asked to ``awaken'' various unhappy women in her acquaintance through his attentions, he acquiesces, beginning with his soft-spoken, strong-willed hostess. A night of passion with her is followed by an even more pleasant interlude with her married daughter, and his services are required yet again by the free- spirited wife of a prominent mine-owner. Meanwhile, Mr. Hargood, himself a lusty man of healthy appetites, concerned that Grange has ignored his warnings about the widow, tells his friend what he has heard of her: She departed London in disgrace after her high-class brothel, distinguished by the same pattern of manipulation used on him, was exposed. Undone by this proof that his liberated, rational worldview has served only to turn him into a gigolo, he slowly recovers his wits--but suspects that the widow cared more for him than she dared admit. Titillating and richly evocative of its time and place: a well-crafted, subtle probe of refined men and women called by their sensuality to rebel against convention--at their peril. (Film rights to Kenneth Branagh & Emma Thompson)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-86939-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1993


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