In another of the mildly wicked dissections of the English character at which he excels, novelist ( Love Unknown ) and biographer ( Tolstoy ) Wilson attacks the unscrupulous practices of some members of the literary community while spinning the coming-of-age story of Julian Ramsay. Orphaned during the blitz, Julian has been brought up by his aunt and uncle in a small East Anglian village. Eccentric Uncle Roy, a vicar, is obsessed with the aristocratic Lampitt family, overvaluing his friendship with Sargent Lampitt, who treats him with snobbish disdain. Sargent's brother, belle-lettrist James Petworth Lampitt, dies offstage but remains squarely at the center of events because of a biography of him written by Raphael Hunter, a legendary charmer and seducer destined for a pivotal role in Julian's life. While the narrative tension centers around the sinister implications of Raphael's behavior, the revelations thus far (this is the first book of a trilogy) do not quite bear out the ominous foreshadowing. Enlivened by some darkly funny scenes set in the ``English Gulag'' (Wilson's name for prep schools) and by a series of wonderful character portraits, the book also delivers trenchant commentary on the nature of the literary art, particularly the gossip-centered, prurient biographies so much the rage today. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989 Release date: 01/01/1989 Genre: Fiction
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