Facing the Tank

Patrick Gale, Author Dutton Books $17.95 (303p) ISBN 978-0-525-24737-1
The British author of Kansas in August , The Aerodynamics of Pork and Ease (all published by age 25) has in this novel carried off yet another ridiculously crazy tour de force. The village of Barrowcester and its inhabitants are the launching point for the narrative's bizarre trajectory. An American professor known for his book about hell is now researching heaven in the Cathedral, where, coincidentally, the remains of the local saint are to be disinterred in order to repair a crumbling foundation wall. The bishop is having ``Doubts,'' the landlady's daughter has been knocked up by a Cardinal, another villager is doing her best to summon the Devil, a previously homosexual dress designer with a positive AIDS test is marrying a black American doctor, a schoolboy thinks he has fathered a litter of puppies, and someone--or something--giant rats? a feral child?--is loose in the village. And that's not the half of it. The plot ricochets between the dozens of richly drawn characters, and one of the many reasons to devour this novel at one go is that it will make it easier to keep track. Some other reasons are that this book is a delightful read, albeit a strange one, and that if started at bedtime, pages will be turning inevitably into the wee small hours. If E. F. Benson, Iris Murdoch and Fay Weldon were to produce a story in some mad collusion, the result might be something like this. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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