THE CLOUD OF DUST

Boxer, Author, Charlie Boxer, Author . Jonathan Cape $16.95 (154p) ISBN 0-224-06108-9

The timeless lure of first love is the subject of Boxer's debut book, a rather monotonous novella about an anonymous male narrator's problematic initial courtship, taking place during his first year at Edinburgh College. The story is related through the narrator's letters to his mother and a friend, Paul, with the series of missives revealing a shy, intelligent and virginal protagonist who spends his first few weeks at school trying to find himself. After a while he becomes interested in Kate, a beautiful, gregarious fellow student who completely dazzles him. Kate, though, is a popular, flirtatious girl, who seems to have an endless series of male admirers, and the narrator must bide his time, winning her over through a series of meetings and conversations that reveal a deep and abiding attraction. The protagonist finally gets Kate to give in to his libidinous urges when he pays a surprise visit during summer vacation, but their tryst is quickly curtailed by Kate's nosy mom, and the follow-up coupling that seems destined to happen somehow never occurs. The narrator continues to pursue his quarry even though Kate eventually acquires a boyfriend, and his obsession with his unrequited love makes him alternately pathetic and ennobled. Boxer captures the edgy, angst-ridden feeling of love the first time around, and he writes eloquently about the painful awkwardness that comes with pursuit and rejection. But the author's inability to flesh out his characters beyond their single-note infatuation makes this a one-dimensional book, which becomes increasingly repetitive as the plot unfolds and the story reaches its unsatisfying, unrequited conclusion. (Dec. 1)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
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