The Bottle in the Smoke

A. N. Wilson, Author Viking Books $18.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-83221-7
Narrator Julian Ramsey, met in Incline Our Hearts , continues his life story in another comedy of manners whose tone darkens as it chronicles the mistakes and wrong turns that determine the downward direction of his once-promising life. Recklessly having left his first job in London to become a writer and/or actor, Julian initially seems to encounter enormous good luck. He falls in love and marries Anne Lampitt, member of the aristocratic family with which Julian's guardian, Uncle Roy, has had a lifelong obsession verging on mania. Next, sinisterly charming womanizer Raphael Hunter, once the seducer of Julian's cousin Felicity and now a famous man of letters via his biography of one of the Lampitts, uses his influence to get Julian's novel published. Disaster follows. Looking back after four decades, Julian realizes that he was callow, obtuse, egotistical and self-deluded; his elegiac tone is balanced by the rich humor and compassion with which he describes his friends of that period: the scruffy denizens of the neighborhood pub, his egregiously eccentric landlady and her long-suffering husband, and the insouciantly insufferable members of the Lampitt family. Enriching the narrative are Wilson's ( Tolstoy ) ironic comments about the craft of biography as well as religion, human relationships and memory. As he ruminates on the changes in character wrought by time and events, Julian will whet readers' appetites for the concluding volume in this witty, poignant, luminously intelligent series. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1990
Release date: 08/01/1990
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-14-013165-9
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