British author Clarke adroitly interweaves two parallel stories in this long, richly atmospheric novel in which the ancient science of alchemy plays a critical role. In alternating chapters we become acquainted with two triangular relationships, one occuring in the present, the other a century earlier. Alex Darken, a blocked poet, comes to a village in Norfolk where he meets once-famous poet Edward Nesbit and his young lover, Laura, a student of parapsychology. The two are researching the lives of Sir Henry Agnew, an elderly metaphysical poet, and his learned daughter Louisa, whose treatise The Chymical Wedding meets the same sad end as her relationship with married rector Edwin Frere. The tragic fates of the 19th-century trio are gradually spelled out as the modern characters find their lives taking a similar turn. The air of mystery pervading the novel, its leisurely pace and mystical theme may remind readers of the works of John Knowles. As the narrative progresses, however, the descriptions of alchemic rituals become a bit tedious, the telling overwrought, the symbolism a bit too facile. For much of its length, however, this is an involving narrative, and readers may forgive its faults for the imaginative story it tells. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989 Release date: 10/01/1989 Genre: Fiction
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