Protesting the carnage in Vietnam, a California college student douses himself in ""petrol"" and sets himself on fire in British author Harris's novel, an attempt to assess the turbulent 1960s in the U.S. The first of a proposed trilogy, the story may make readers in the States feel weirdly dislocated. Long before the over-sensitive hippie Laurie immolates himself, his two temperamentally opposite friends-serious anthropologist Hal and free-spirited drifter Ben-almost ""row"" about what to do about his obvious disintegration. After the tragedy, Hal heads to Mexico to study Indian culture, falling for Magdalena, the affianced daughter of the wealthiest man in Mexico City. Meanwhile, easygoing Ben heads to Cypress, where he meets Englishwoman Jo Daniel. Many twists of plot ensue, until Jo meets Hal, closing the triangle. There's plenty of sudsy material here-exotic locales, love and death-but this bland novel, which chronicles 13 years in the characters' lives, is an awkward affair. When she's not Anglicizing her characters' speech, Harris (The Herb Gatherers) peppers it with ""reckons"" and ""ain'ts,"" as though they were born on the prairie instead of in Chicago and San Francisco. By the time the series plays itself out, one hopes that Harris will have learned that not all Americans are at home on the range. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996 Release date: 01/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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