Andorra

Peter Cameron, Author
Peter Cameron, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-10505-1
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-452-27944-5
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Concealing a dark fable about the transcendent power of the imagination within a slyly ironic tale about a man of refinement and vague intention traveling to a tiny European nation, Cameron's third novel (after The Weekend) displays his gift for language and narrative hijinks in fullest flower. The narrator, Alexander Fox, ""compelled by circumstances to begin my life again in some new place,"" arrives by train in La Plata, the sun-splashed, oddly desolate, Monte Carlo-like capital of Andorra. He quickly becomes the cynosure of two contrasting La Plata families: that of neurotic Australian Ricky Dent, always accompanied by her large dog, Dino, who falls in love with Fox--as does her husband, a troubled bisexual composer also named Ricky Dent; and that of kayaking La Plata doyenne Sophonsobia Quay, whose uncle Roderick leases his home to Fox, and who seeks to marry Fox off to her waifish daughter, Jean. We gradually learn that Fox, a former bookseller and architect, is fleeing a tragedy involving the death of his American wife and daughter. When he is implicated in a series of murders in Andorra and his passport is confiscated by the police, he is forced to flee the country. Fox, whose evasive speech and manners begin to follow a foxy pattern of self-delusion and caprice, is an extremely unreliable narrator. His Andorra, unlike the actual nation, is on the ocean. La Plata, a paradisial yet haunted landscape of dopplegangers and repetitions, increasingly appears to be little more than a projection of his own inner life. There's a delicate poignancy to this novel and to Cameron's surprising conclusion, as the glittering world of Andorra, which proves a consolation for the terrible reality of Fox's true circumstances, dissolves like a fantastic sandcastle in the face of real life. (Jan.)
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