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 British novelist Boyd (Brazzaville Beach, 1991, etc.) cooks up a wild plot revolving around a long-lost, world-traveling father and his go-getter daughter, but he gets preoccupied with fictive gymnastics at the expense of creating characters to care about. Kay, a rising young architect in LA in 1936, tells the story of Salvador Carriscant, a mysterious stranger who claims to be her father. Having thought that her real father died when she was an infant, Kay refuses to believe Carriscant, but nevertheless lets him talk her into trekking to Lisbon to track down a woman from his past. This woman, not Kay's mother, was the love of Carriscant's life back in the Philippines at the turn of the century, and the majority of the book is taken up with Kay's retelling of how he lost her. A prominent surgeon in Manila, Carriscant is called in to examine the bodies of two American soldiers whose deaths prompt a murder investigation. Mired in an arid marriage to Kay's mother, Carriscant falls in love with an American officer's wife and together they plan to flee the Philippines to start their lives over. She escapes, but Carriscant is implicated in the murders and ends up being separated from her for 30 years. Hence he tracks down Kay (born after his wife left him as a result of the scandal), then convinces her to go to Lisbon for one last look at the woman who got away. Since the reader knows from the beginning that Carriscant is going to lose his love, and since the narration makes a big point of Kay not believing anything Carriscant says, it is difficult to form attachments to any of the characters. Well written, intricately detailed and researched, but uncompelling.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-43295-7
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994


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