The Deep End

Robert Liddell, Author Peter Owen Publishers $29.95 (187p) ISBN 978-0-7206-0903-5
Arriving here 25 years after its British publication, Liddell's veddy English tale of interwar boarding-school beastliness opens creakily, in an old-fashioned salvo of drawing-room banter. Its well-mannered craftsmanship, however, even as it comes to exert a gradual attraction, increasingly proves--like the veneer of decorum in the school halls--only a mask for a darker and less wholesome narrative. Arriving as a substitute teacher at his aging uncle's prep school, Cambridge-bound Kit Henderson finds himself drawn inexorably into increasingly open conflict with deputy head Dudley Knight and his disingenuous, muscular brand of Christianity. The fatal focus of their struggle is Harry Staples, whose combination of intellectual precocity and physical vulnerability threatens Knight even as it endears him to Kit, and whose fear of swimming the latter makes it a point of honor to combat. Liddell adeptly portrays the easy savagery of the young; yet the true serpents in his garden are the staff, locked in internecine rivalries, careless of their charges' good and ``the ways in which we corrupt their innocence.'' Liddell is a subtle corruptor himself: the understated currents of frustrated sexuality, class resentment and emotional repression circulating here do just as insidious a job of warping the novel's genteel surface. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
Paperback - 188 pages - 978-0-7206-0919-6
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