cover image Past Caring

Past Caring

Robert Goddard. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (501pp) ISBN 978-0-312-00173-5

Written in clear, resonant prose, Goddard's first novel, nominated for the Booker prize, is a poised telling of a complex tale. A fascinating ""could this be true?'' story within a story is reminiscent of Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time, while Thomas Hardy's tragic characters are deliberately echoed in the Edwardian British politician Edwin Strafford and the troubled historian Martin Radford, who has been chosen to research Strafford's tormented life. Radford finds a memoir that contains hints of a political and moral crime, past but not forgotten, so devastating that even in 1977 it reverberates through the corridors of power. As he reads the memoir, Radford eventually comes to regard the dead Home Secretary as a friend, even as his search uncovers corruption and murder. The novel's subtlety is reflected in the different meanings of its title, and the satisfying climax weaves together the strands of past and present. In one sense a historical thriller, and in another a romantic novel of a love affair gone disastrously wrong, this is, in any case, a wonderful read. (January 13)