This is the story of Gabriel Harvey who was happy until the day his father inherited a lot of money and became a snob. Then his beloved mother, 35 years her husband's junior, vanishes. Gabriel feels that he'll see her again, but gradually understands that her "holiday" is a complete separation.
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This is apparently the first book by Englishman Bailey to be published here, and it is surprising that he has taken so long to win a beachhead. True, his book deals with English eccentricity at its manic extreme, but it is also both funny and touching in many unexpected ways. The reticent narrator, Gabriel Harvey, writes of a vulgar, self-deluded racist homophobe of a father and of a mother he loved passionately, who abandoned them. He lives a quiet, self-effacing life among London's down-and-outers until a book he has written becomes a surprise movie hitnever free, however, of his agonized efforts to come to terms with the loss of his mother. But although the story contains some surprising, even jolting twists, it is as a revealer of character through dialogue that Bailey shines. Oswald Harvey is a particularly English kind of monster, the kind Americans seldom get to know, rendered with uncanny exactitude to every last belch and prejudice; and his ghastly friends, Reggie Van Pelt and the appalling Marge, are every bit as cringingly funny. There are also word-perfect sketches of an exiled Russian countess, a cheerful Red landlady and an ineffably polite Indian atheist. The book is an exotic blend of elements that, like strong English tea, leaves a powerful aftertaste.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Bailey has fashioned an awkward buildungsroman in this, his sixth novel and the first to be published in America. The young man is Gabriel Harvey, an aspiring writer who believes his eccentricity and isolation are due to the dark influences of an uneducated, boorish father and a mother who disappeared when he was 13. The people Gabriel meets when he leaves home offer glimpses of the poorer classes in London, but they never become more than caricatures. Gabriel himself is a pale presence, becoming so obsessed with the memory of his mother that he imagines conversations with her ghost. The prose style is strained, either too precious or too tinged with self-pity to evoke pathos. Not a recommended purchase. Lucinda Ann Peck, Learning Design Associates, Gahanna, Ohio
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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