A Watch in the Night

A. N. Wilson, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (218p) ISBN 978-0-393-04042-5
What is the true story of James ""Jimbo"" Petworth Lampitt's death? Was Raphael Hunter implicated in his mysterious fall? And what about Virgil D. Everett, whose demise was similar to Jimbo's? Readers of Wilson's four previous novels about the Lampitt family as recalled by narrator Julian Ramsay (the most recent was Hearing Voices) will enjoy this concluding volume in the Lampitt Chronicles. Wilson's audience knows, however, that the author's sinuous, digressive path to these final revelations is as rewarding as the details of the plot. Here, again, Julian ruminates on some recurring topics: the nature of the creative process, the preeminence of Shakespeare in the pantheon of writers, the role of Christian theology in daily life, the prevalence of homosexuality among the British upper class, the aristocracy's support of conservative (here fascist) political activities. Wilson reserves his greatest scorn for Raphael Hunter. A talentless writer and opportunist who has achieved success, wealth and celebrity (""this Booker Judge, this presenter of `Perspectives' on the telly'') on the strength of his bogus biography of Jimbo, Hunter finally confesses his part in the ""accident'' that took Jimbo's life. Amply foreshadowed in the previous books, the disclosure comes not as a surprise but as a rich culmination of Wilson's masterful portrait of a generation in its heyday and decline. Presented with ironic humor and dense with engaging ideas and indelible characters, the series and this final book are well worth a reader's time and attention. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 218 pages - 978-0-393-31725-1
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