The War Zone

Stuart, Author, Alexander Stuart, Author Doubleday Books $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-24953-9
A photo of children in bomb-torn Beirut hangs in the bedroom of Tom, the adolescent narrator of this taut, gripping novel by a young British writer. The war zone of the title, however, is the seemingly tranquil village in Devon where Tom and his family have moved from London. Bored and restless, Tom at first seems a contemporary Holden Caulfield, possessed of an urge to do mischief to establish his identity. But as he relates the circumstances that transform his lifehis discovery of the incestuous relationship between his father and his older sister Jessiethe novel reveals its sinister, shocking theme. Because he and Jessie have always been close, the situation feels like a double betrayal to Tom, who also realizes that to reveal the bizarre secret to his mother, preoccupied with a new baby, will destroy them all. In electrically tense prose, Stuart succeeds in enveloping the reader in the surcharged atmosphere of sexual perversion. Although Tom's painful emotional limbo is effectively conveyed, however, Stuart's portrayal of Jessie is less successful. The young woman's cool, nervy manipulation of her father and Tom, her determination to engage in every form of sexual experience, is meant to mirror the ``corrupt, repressive'' society of Thatcher's England, but Jessie loses her credibility as she leads Tom into a maelstrom of depravity and violence. The denouement, containing the rationale for Jessie's behavior, is unconvincing, but until that point the reader is caught up in a riveting tale. (Apr . )
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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