Middleton is an exasperating writer whose very real talent and narrative drive tend to be short-circuited by his obsessions. Here, as in The Lay of the Land , a heavy supernatural overlay intrudes on what could have been a compelling story of compulsive infidelity. Daniel Seagrief is a not-very-successful historian married to an extremely successful one, Marian, who has become a major TV-personality. Teaching an evening course on early English mythology (the author's own field), Daniel becomes obsessed with Eppie, a beautiful student drawn to his class by her dreams and anxieties. Another lecturer--sinister, mysterious Adrian Osterburg--eventually turns out to be having an affair with Marian. But it is Daniel's desperate longing for the elusive Eppie that gives the novel its odd power and keeps the reader involved despite heavy-handed, repeated intrusions of hallucinations and the laborious, academic explications of early Anglo-Welsh history and myth. An apocalyptic conclusion occurs on May Morning in Oxford, in which reality and fantasy do not even begin to mingle, and the book peters out. It is difficult to say if Middleton's work would be more compelling without its supernatural trimmings, but he should give it a try; his gifts for storytelling, setting and character could see him through. (Apr)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991 Release date: 03/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
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