The Skull and the Nightingale

Michael Irwin. Morrow, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-220235-2
In order to inherit his fortune, a young 18th-century Englishman must provide his godfather, a staid country gentleman, detailed accounts of his erotic adventures, in Irwin’s debut novel. One could hardly call 23-year-old Richard Fenwick innocent when he returns to England from abroad, yet his godfather’s request that he describe his ongoing sexual conquests and darkest passions begins a series of seductions, indulgences, debaucheries, and betrayals that delineate Richard’s descent into vice and crime, to the voyeuristic delight of his patron. A la Tom Jones, the hero carouses with aptly named characters like Crocker, Horn, and Pike, finds himself in back streets and drawing rooms, and enjoys the occasional tumble in the grass between efforts to win over a particularly virtuous woman. Using language that resonates with the music and manners of the time, Irwin, a Fielding scholar, contrasts pastoral and graphic scenes, proper and pornographic passages, and high-minded theory and base practice. His knowledge of 18th-century social customs, values, and hypocrisies is impressive, but his ardent fantasies are likewise reminiscent of the past: the secret spyhole, the masquerade ball, the jealous husband lurking around the site of his cuckolding, all suggest male-perspective bodice-ripping as much as they reflect the satirical classics whose raunchy romanticism Irwin attempts so earnestly to recapture. Agent: Annette Green, Annette Green Authors’ Agency (U.K.). (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/20/2013
Release date: 07/01/2013
Hardcover - 496 pages - 978-0-00-747634-3
Paperback - 504 pages - 978-0-00-747635-0
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-226333-9
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-06-220237-6
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