I Am Jonathan Scrivener

Claude Houghton, Author, Michael Dirda, Foreword by, Hugh Walpole, Preface by
Claude Houghton. Valancourt (www.valancourtbooks.com), $16.99 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-939140-08-1
Reviewed on: 07/01/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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In this elegant, unsettling 1930 novel, now reissued with a foreword by critic Michael Dirda, Houghton—a once acclaimed British author—constructs a psychological and philosophical mystery around the title character's identity. Narrator James Wrexham, friendless and trapped in a job he hates, answers a classified ad, and unexpectedly lands the job of Jonathan Scrivener's personal secretary without ever meeting him. Staying in his new employer's London home while Scrivener is abroad, Wrexham meets four improbably dissimilar people all with keys to the flat: graceful, beautiful Pauline Mandeville; scandal-ridden socialite Francesca Bellamy; hard-drinking WWI veteran Andrew Middleton; and flippant Antony Rivers. All of them have completely different ideas of the wealthy, accomplished Scrivener's personality, causing Wrexham to suspect that an elaborate psychological game is taking place. Variously evoking P.G. Wodehouse's wit and G.K. Chesterton's cerebral thrillers, this thoughtful puzzle of a novel should strike readers as a still-fresh discovery. (Apr.)
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