cover image A Jealous God

A Jealous God

Simon Mawer. Andre Deutsch, $25.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-233-98964-8

Beneath her cool exterior, prim Helen Harding, an English librarian specializing in Biblical studies, is a muddle of conflicting impulses. After a 20-year estrangement, she is conducting an extramarital affair with her stepbrother Michael, resuming the forbidden sex play of their youth. She's riddled with guilt about her senile, doddering mother Lorna, now confined to an old-age home after a long career as a femme fatale. Above all, Helen seeks to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of her father, British intelligence officer Andrew Harding, presumably killed in 1946 in the bombing of Jerusalem's King David Hotel by Zionist extremists in British-occupied Palestine. Did Major Harding, whose sympathy with the plight of Jewish refugees set him at odds with his callous comrades, actually survive the blast, as Lorna believes? Was he a hero or a traitor? Did Dennis Killin, his cynical, mysterious friend, have an affair with Lorna--and is he the father of Helen's own daughter? Mawer, whose Chimera won the 1989 McKitterick Prize for a first novel, is a poetic, masterful explorer of hidden motives, erotic desires, divided loyalties. (Aug.)