cover image According to Mark

According to Mark

Penelope Lively. Beaufort Books, $14.95 (217pp) ISBN 978-0-8253-0311-1

Despite its title, the book isn't gospel, nor does its eponymous hero invoke any power higher than middle age for his infatuation with Carrie Summers, the papers of whose renowned grandfather he is researching for a biography. Carrie, a charming, freckled, half-educated maverick, has turned the great man's estate into a garden center and is more interested in the needs of her flowers than to Mark Lamming's importunings. In the event, however, he persuades her to drive with him to France to interview her flighty mother; on the way they make love, an activity in which Carrie participates with pagan-like wholeheartedness. But when Mark's wife joins them, Carrie runs away to Paris, there to meet a man for whom she feels a yearning so uncontrollable that, newly tender and perceptive, she grieves for poor Mark. Thus summarized, this accomplished novel seems little more than a variant on the triangle theme, but its virtues are distinctive. Mark's torment is genuine, Carrie's awkward grace appealing, the situation is handled with a blend of sentiment and fun. Lively (Perfect Happiness, etc.) has the gift of making readers care about her characters; this novel was short-listed for the 1984 Booker Prize. November 15