Martin Booth, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-26804-6

Booth (Industry of Souls; Hiroshima Joe; etc.) offers a dreamy allegory of lost innocence in this novel about a young British archeologist who loses a chance at love when he's forced to serve in WWI. Alec Marquand is an old man, lying dying in a hospital; he barely moves and has not spoken a word in years, but his vivid memories are full of passion, intrigue and confrontation. He begins his career mapping Stone Age "brochs" on a remote Scottish island. There, he encounters a beautiful, otherworldly young woman, part mystical vision, part flesh and blood. Marquand is entranced by her innocence—she seems oddly brazen and unashamed of her nakedness. Though she doesn't speak and he knows nothing about her, they develop a sort of rapport, and she allows him to sketch her. Their unorthodox relationship is interrupted by his stepfather, a former colonel, who offers the young man a commission as the war with Germany approaches. Marquand refuses the commission, and the colonel has him imprisoned for refusing to serve. After doing time, Marquand endures a grueling tour of duty as a military medic. When he returns to the island, he catches only one more glimpse of the woman before she vanishes forever. Booth is a skilled storyteller, especially in the early chapters, when he brings Marquand's ghostly would-be lover to life. Marquand's effort to warm himself decades later with the memory of the unconsummated affair while trying to forget the horrors of war is moving as well. Not everyone will appreciate the mystical conceit, but readers who do will find this a solidly written, engaging tale. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/18/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-312-42332-2
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4668-5399-7
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