Alan Wall Lightning Cage, The

ISBN 13: 9780099289531

Lightning Cage, The

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9780099289531: Lightning Cage, The

In the tradition of Graham Swift and Patrick McGrath---Alan Wall’s The Lightning Cage is a gothic, metaphysical novel given the speed and strength of a thriller.

A former seminarian, Christopher Bayliss abandons his studies in Rome and returns to England determined to be cleansed forever of the contagion of religion and to leave behind his angels as well as his demons. But then something curious starts to happen: his research into an obscure eighteenth-century poet, Richard Pelham, reintroduces into his life those same ghostly whispers and rumors he thought he silenced for good.

And so he flees once more, into a different type of life entirely---he escapes into worldly success. But even still, it seems he cannot escape the mysteries of Richard Pelham. Soon these dark secrets begin to take over his life as insidiously and completely as they took over the poet over two centuries before.

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About the Author:

Alan Wall was born in Yorkshire and educated at Oxford. He is the author of several novels including The School of Night (available from St. Martin’s Press) and Bless the Thief. He currently lives in Wales.

From Publishers Weekly:

This tale of a scholar's struggle with an elusive subject is high on content and intelligence but middling on fulfillment. The narrative jumps between two different stories that ultimately interlock in a poignant, if muted, fashion. When graduate student Christopher Bayliss grows disenchanted with scholarly work on the life of obscure 18th-century English poet Richard Pelham, he decides to study for the priesthood. When his commitment fizzles, he goes to work for a small printing company, but gets fired after one of the employees he's supposed to be supervising embezzles money. An auto accident leaves him with painful whiplash and spare time, and he plunges back into research on Pelham. An alcoholic but often inspired poet who had been treated with laudanum under a doctor's care, Pelham went to live with Lord Chilford, a noted scientist, at his estate. Lord Chilford's treatments failed, however; Pelham found Chilford's wine cellar, and he once again became mad-but also the host of celestial spirits that appeared to spur his creativity. Pelham's decline and Bayliss's decline subtly run parallel as the novel progresses. Wall (The School of Night) tells the labyrinthine story with unusual ease, and it's easy to forget that we are assimilating many different layers: psychological case study, historical record, biographical mystery, occult tale. The narrative goes slack occasionally, when description takes over without advancing the story. Wall also doesn't make enough drama from Pelham's eerie predicament or the barbarism of the 18th century's treatment of mental illness. But the novel is a moving, complex portrait of dissipated lives and disturbed minds, strangely similar though two centuries apart.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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