This novel describes the story of Peter Ferson who looks back over the events which have led to his imprisonment for murder, events which include his wife's near-fatal accident and the appalling decision he was forced to make.
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Echoing Graham Greene in tone and theme, if not in insight or dash, this first novel features a lapsed Catholic who languishes in prison mulling over the sorry succession of events that led him there. Ferson was about to leave his possessive, hateful wife (not to mention his in-laws, the one humorless, the other "a dead man already") and go off with another woman (who doesn't even love him), when a near-fatal car accident forced him to make a terrible decision regarding his wife's future. As though one car crash weren't enough, there's a second one, fatal this time, involving another member of Ferson's family. If Ferson had really had the humanity "threshed" out of him by these events, as he claims, it's hard to see how he could have committed the act of mercy that puts him in jail; but it's as hard to believe he had much humanity in the first place. McDonnell writes with crisp but shallow assurance. Ferson, like the other characters, is essentially hollow, and if his story admits no chink of light it's because his creator seems to have a vested interest in dreariness.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Like the apostle Peter, Peter Farson, the hero and narrator of McDonnell's first novel, is memorable for his denial. Denying first God, then Margaret (his wife), and finally Barbara (the woman who loves him but whom he will not marry), Peter eventually accepts his own guilt for the ruined lives of those around him and--in a genuine if ironic act of love and mercy--murders his suffering wife. McDonnell controls tone and plot masterfully and is most convincing in his depiction of a character wracked with guilt and sin. Although he still sounds a bit like Iris Murdoch, McDonnell has the potential to become a genuinely new voice in Irish fiction.
- Donald P. Kaczvinsky, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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