Paradise of Fools

Jane Rawlinson, Author Trafalgar Square Publishing $23.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-233-98641-8
The sentimental, the mystical and surreal mix in this unfortunate emulation of a Victorian narrative from the author of Cradle Son and Cargo. In 1897, docile dowager Elizabeth, married to a man referred to only as J. L., looks back five decades and recalls her love for talented young artist Richard Dadd, an actual figure who died at Broadmoor Hospital in 1886. The Dadds, including Elizabeth's friend Maria, are high-spirited, pious and eminently respectable. But one by one they are going mad. The etiology of Richard's insanity is traced to his grand tour, when he underwent a mystical experience in Egypt while inside a pharaoh's tomb. He began exhibiting seriously disturbed behavior, and upon returning home to England, he slit his father's throat. Elizabeth's recollections become increasingly feverish and the actions of characters more bizarre as Richard's siblings begin their slow descent into insanity. Attempts to capture the Victorian flavor yield a contrived, ponderous prose and verge on parody. Elizabeth herself, basically passive and timid, draws little sympathy from the often invoked ``Reader.'' (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992
Release date: 12/01/1992
Genre: Fiction
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