Hugh Arkwright is seven when he is transposed from a wondrous childhood in the bush of Central Africa to a cold, bleak landscape in the rural west of England. There he is raised by an eccentric uncle whose devotion to theosophical mysticism borders on lunacy and whose dubious charms win from Hugh the woman he loves. Hugh does not accustom easily to loss: Six years after he was packed off to "civilized" England, his mother one day simply walked out of her house in Africa and disappeared into its vast, unmapped lands. And he acquired a ghost.
Brilliantly wrought and vividly imagined, the story of the decorated war veteran and celebrated theater director Hugh Arkwright's return to the sad house of his childhood and adolescence casts modern, so-called civilized values in a startling, visionary light and with an unexpected, staggering revelation unravels the mystery at its heart.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Hugh Arkwright was born in colonial Africa, into a lush and beautiful place where it was possible at times to "feel the earth's heartbeat in your feet." Adam Thorpe's third novel, Pieces of Light, begins in the form of a memoir, with Hugh looking back to this hot paradise, to a state of grace in which "all around the forest spoke." Of course he was destined to fall, and to have the forest taken from him, replaced by cold silence, a mother who disappeared, an adolescence in England on the brink of war.
The author of this daunting, often dazzling novel has published two other fictions--Ulverton and Still--and two volumes of verse, and his poetic gifts are in full force in the Africa sections. But when Pieces of Light shifts from dreamlike memoir into journal fragments, letters, and various other "real" documents, it loses momentum. As Hugh grows up and confronts the West's postlapsarian reality (he becomes a well-known theater director and watches the world shatter into war), it can be difficult to stick with his ponderous journey. Epic in length, the novel begs to be cut back, to be allowed its true solitary intimacy like the charms carved in the African wilderness. Thorpe is clearly a writer of wild gifts, yet Pieces of Light often feels like the work of a composer who wanted to write a love song but whose ego compelled him to write a symphony instead. --Emily WhiteFrom Kirkus Reviews:
No less a savage indictment of rural English life than was its predecessor (ULVERTON, 1992), Thorpe's newest epic is at once more personal and more profound as it details the mysteries and tragedies of a child born in Africa and transported to his uncle's house in England for schooling. In his old age he discovers the mindbending truth about his past. Young Hugh Arkwright's memories of interior Africawhere after WWI his father served as a minion of the British Empire in a rotting outpost squeezed between a dark river and a darker junglewere memories anyone might have of home and a pleasant childhood. Only when packed off to creepy Uncle Edward's cold stone manor, bereft of his parents and pining for the warmth and wonder of Africa as revealed to him by one of the native servants, does Hugh's vision darkenand, literally, an eye already weakened by malarial fever fail him completely. After a few years of brutal public school, Edward's peculiar pantheistic views are lightened only by his mother's brief visits in summer, but then, just as hes recovering one winter from a bout of pneumonia, he has dreadful news of her: she walked into the jungle and vanished. Much later Hugh, long a well-known director of classical theater, comes back as an old man to that house in the west of England, having inherited it following the death of Edward's much younger wife. He finds in the attic a trunk that when he pries it open proves to be a Pandora's box. From the institution where he's been placed after his subsequent breakdown Hugh recounts, in a series of painful but therapy-related letters to his long-lost mother, the whole tawdry tale of his one love, the murder he was believed to have committed, and his shock at learning who he really is. Plot details don't do this eerie, mood-laced saga justice, but driving the novel along with the central mystery, skillfully suspended, is as somber and compelling a view of folklore and folkways as has been seen in fiction in some time. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description VINTAGE. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0099272695 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1892834