The Summer of the Royal Visit

Isabel Colegate, Author
Isabel Colegate, Author Knopf Publishing Group $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-40880-2
Hardcover - 978-0-517-10741-6
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Like The Shooting Party , Colegate's latest novel explores the hypocrisies of British society and the subtle class distinctions that subvert moral values. Queen Victoria's 1876 visit to Bath is the backdrop to a tale in which the city is as much a character as those whose intersecting lives reach crisis point during and following the occasion. In what we come to recognize as a moral tale, an earnest but self-doubting curate who serves the city's poor in the slum district (called Haul Down) and the beautiful, virtuous and charitable married woman with whom he unwittingly falls in love are the figures of light. They are contrasted with a sinister man named Caspar Freeling, who claims he is a scholar but is gradually revealed to be engaged in nefarious activities in which some of the so-called pillars of the community are secretly involved. Evoking the period with unerring accuracy, Colegate's reserved, slightly mocking voice conveys the disparity between the pomp and snobbery surrounding the queen's visit and the squalor and despair engulfing many of the community's citizens. If the understated narrative moves somewhat slowly, it succeeds in illuminating self-satisfied Victorian attitudes about moral rectitude and the relationships between the sexes. (Jan.)
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