Gabriel's Lament

Paul Bailey, Author Viking Books $17.95 (331p) ISBN 978-0-670-81656-9
This is apparently the first book by Englishman Bailey to be published here, and it is surprising that he has taken so long to win a beachhead. True, his book deals with English eccentricity at its manic extreme, but it is also both funny and touching in many unexpected ways. The reticent narrator, Gabriel Harvey, writes of a vulgar, self-deluded racist homophobe of a father and of a mother he loved passionately, who abandoned them. He lives a quiet, self-effacing life among London's down-and-outers until a book he has written becomes a surprise movie hitnever free, however, of his agonized efforts to come to terms with the loss of his mother. But although the story contains some surprising, even jolting twists, it is as a revealer of character through dialogue that Bailey shines. Oswald Harvey is a particularly English kind of monster, the kind Americans seldom get to know, rendered with uncanny exactitude to every last belch and prejudice; and his ghastly friends, Reggie Van Pelt and the appalling Marge, are every bit as cringingly funny. There are also word-perfect sketches of an exiled Russian countess, a cheerful Red landlady and an ineffably polite Indian atheist. The book is an exotic blend of elements that, like strong English tea, leaves a powerful aftertaste. (June 29)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-14-010015-0
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