AUGUST FROST

Monique Roffey, Author
Monique Roffey, Author . Atlantic Monthly $24 (400p) ISBN 978-0-87113-869-9
Paperback - 390 pages - 978-0-8021-4046-3
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An imaginative fable grounded in realistic detail, this first novel follows the metamorphosis of August Chalmin, a socially awkward, lonely 30-something Londoner with "upright blood-orange hair which limbo danced crazily from his head, as though a madman lived there, leaping from a burning attic." Such vibrant language is one of the charms of the novel, along with its highly original premise: over the course of a year, August's body undergoes a series of peculiar changes tied to the seasons. His skin turns blue and an icicle dangles from his ear in the fall and winter. In the spring, his body begins to bud, sprouting small leaves and branches. August wants to believe these developments are some kind of allergic reaction, perhaps to a cheese in the gourmet delicatessen where he works. But the real cause is the unexpected appearance of Cosmo Rodriguez—a former lover of his mother's, and a menacing figure from August's childhood, who recently moved into the neighborhood. Raised haphazardly on a commune by his mother, Olivia, August has always believed his real father was dead, but begins to worry that Cosmo, whom he's never liked, might be the one. The search for his origins propels this oddly convincing story of transformation, which leaves August finally feeling "good in his skin" for the first time in his emotionally stunted life. Mournful, quietly suspenseful and gently surreal, August's story is a haunting—if occasionally slow-moving—whimsy that marks the arrival of a talented newcomer. (Mar.)

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