Little Masters

Damien Wilkins, Author
Damien Wilkins, Author Henry Holt & Company $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4951-0
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1941
Stretching across a handful of countries and featuring characters from a wide variety of nations and backgrounds, Wilkins's (The Miserables) second novel offers an abundant display of his remarkable talent for setting scenes and sketching characters. The novel centers loosely around two young New Zealanders: Adrian, in his mid-20s an accidental father, and Emily, a graduate-student nanny who ends up chaperoning her young charge to a rendezvous with her German father. Adrian and his son, Daniel, move to London, where Adrian finds work with an eccentric publisher. Meanwhile, Emily and Michaela also pass through England, and the four meet through Emily's old friend Sarah. Wilkins's gift for detail is truly Dickensian--even his most minor characters are full of surprises and implied complexities. His ability to create complex yet fully believable children characters is especially extraordinary, and his keen ear for dialogue veers unpredictably between wit and poignancy. In a book full of small gems of insight, the one disappointment is that the whole feels somewhat less than the sum of its parts: this is more a series of brilliantly fleshed-out character studies than it is a novel, with little in the way of a larger plot. Nevertheless, it is a tour de force display of a deep and abiding literary gift and marks Wilkins as a young novelist of extraordinary promise. (June)
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