DARWIN'S WINK

Alison Anderson, Author
Alison Anderson, Author . St. Martin's $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-33199-3
Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-312-33200-6
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Two lonely hearts try to protect an endangered species of bird and the paradisiacal island on which they live from mysterious agents of destruction in Anderson's dreamy, lushly written second novel (after 1996's Hidden Latitudes ). Christian, a disenchanted, 30-something Swiss man haunted by his experiences as a Red Cross worker in Bosnia, comes to Egret Island, "a short green poem of a place" off the coast of Mauritius, to work for Fran, a middle-aged, outwardly brusque American naturalist seeking to restore the island to its original, untouched state and the endangered mourner-bird to its previous strength. Like Christian, who left behind a pregnant lover, Fran has also loved and lost; she tries to confine herself to a cerebral approach to work and life, blunting her sexual frissons and painful flashbacks through Darwinian logic. But as an unseen menace stalks the island, seeking to destroy both the birds and their caretakers, Fran and Christian are propelled toward romantic union—a well-worn conceit given some resonance by the novel's governing idiom of biology, instinct and the odd "stochastic factor, or... Darwin's wink": the nonsensical gap in biological progress that throws predictability off course. Readers will find the plot distantly secondary to the novel's rich emotional palette, as Anderson captures the expansive beauty of Mauritius and the nuances of human character with languid, sensual and occasionally violet prose. Agent, Irene Moore. (Nov.)

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