Robert McCrum, Author Alfred A. Knopf $22 (345p) ISBN 978-0-679-40473-6
McCrum, editorial director of Faber & Faber, coauthor of The Story of English and author of three previous thrillers, looks to his roots in Northern Ireland for this tightly controlled, very British story of two sensible people trying to connect in the unsettling atmosphere of an occupied land. By choosing not to name the countries involved, calling them ``the mainland'' and ``the occupation,'' McCrum transforms his understated narrative into a powerful fable of contemporary conflict. Dr. Stephen Mallory, intensely frustrated by his shady job as ``political consultant,'' is assigned as security chief for a mainland committee inspecting a manse in the zone of occupation. He meets Isabel Rome, a recently divorced mainland reporter, and their romance struggles against the background of terrorist activity. It is soon clear to them that neither the MI5 agents nor the Army can promise security without the aid of local nabob Joe Curtis. Previously spurned by Isabel and diminished by his family's fall from prominence, Curtis has a private agenda that skews loyalties and foments the fractious nature of those he controls. McCrum captures the feeling of emasculation that prevails in a country unwillingly occupied, eloquently channeling the resultant violence and rage. The fiery resolution underscores the mercurial nature of life in a society rent by seemingly irreconcilable differences. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
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