The Unmaking

Carol Birch, Author Ballantine Books $10 (182p) ISBN 978-0-345-37804-0
British novelist Birch's superficial tale of love and sin, set in an English village during the Middle Ages, chronicles the thwarted romance of Belle Rennock. Promised in marriage by her ailing father and greedy brother, Hugh, to the son of the rich Lord Harlock, Belle secretly carries on a love affair with a poor ploughboy, John Heron. When Hugh learns of the affair he lures John to the woods and stabs him. But the boy, merely wounded, recovers and is taken in by another young man. As the story progresses, incestuous relations emerge: Harlock's wife confesses that the lover who has been brutally murdered by her husband was also her son by another man, and Hugh reveals his own lust for his sister. When John reappears, Belle ``walks out of her life'' and goes off with him. Birch simplifies human emotions to the point of absurdity and tries to compensate for her lack of emotional insight through scenes of violence with ``spilt gore running freely, flowing like streamlets into one bright river.'' Accordingly, Birch's characters are one-dimensional. Vengeful Hugh ``thrills'' to the shedding of blood, while Belle frets about ``sin'' which she calls ``the stuff of her life.'' (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
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