Chinese Summer

Mark Illis, Author Viking Books $16.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-670-82712-1
Accomplished as this first novel is, advanced by clean prose and deft structure, it lacks depth and emotional resonance. When his longtime girlfriend, Helen, leaves him, Simon Hare--who has toyed aimlessly with temporary jobs in London for the two years since graduating from college--collapses further inward from his habitual state of taciturn withdrawal, into a silent, solitary and acute condition of psychological paralysis. While his likable, well-intentioned English family visits his older brother in Africa during the summer, Simon pretends to look for a serious job. In reality, he spends days in bed writing letters he never sends, and isolates himself within his suffocatingly intense stream-of-consciousness. His ``tight-lipped'' behavior is justified, he feels, by the ``Chinese walls'' already existing between people, preventing them from understanding one another, or themselves. But when Simon is knocked down by a Volvo on the way to a job interview, he is paradoxically jolted back into life. Despite his callow and confused self-absorption, Simon is a sympathetic young hero, showing sensitivity to others when he musters up the effort to encounter them. Yet the barrenness of Simon's psyche--in the absence of an engaging narrative voice and authorial insight--fails to compel. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
Hardcover - 144 pages - 978-0-7475-0257-9
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