A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred review .
A powerful study of emotional trauma, English writer Miller's third novel (after Ingenious Pain and Oxygen ) probes the horrors of genocide as well as what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil." Clem Glass is a veteran photojournalist who thought he was inured to man's inhumanity to man until he witnessed the aftermath of a genocidal massacre in Africa. Unable to wipe the images of murdered women and children from his mind, Clem wanders distraught around London. When his older sister, Clare, a professor in Dundee, has a recurrence of the mental breakdown she suffered some years earlier, Andrew is at first unable to deal with any additional emotional problems. Instead, he flees to Canada to consult a colleague, a journalist who also witnessed the massacre and found solace in caring for society's outcasts. Eventually, Clem takes responsibility for his sister and nurses her back to health. When he finally confronts the man responsible for the slaughter in Africa, he realizes it's impossible to exact revenge for an act of such cosmic evil. He himself must hit emotional rock bottom before he achieves a tentative optimism and reaffirms his faith in life. Miller's story is starkly illustrative of the wide range of human behavior in the so-called civilized world. The guardedly positive ending reveals the irony in the book's title; only "a small, stubborn belief" can be wrested from the circumstances of modern life. (Apr. 5)