What is wrong with Dr Edward Haggard? Is it a passionate love for the wife of the senior pathologist or is it something simpler? Is it a broken heart or is it Spike - the steel pin that holds his fractured hip together? By the author of "Spider" and "The Grotesque".
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McGrath carries on his winning streak in the short horror novel form (Spider, 1990; The Grotesque, 1989; Blood and Water and Other Tales, 1987). Dr. Haggard's disease is sexual passion, and the story of its ravages is told in flashback as the crippled hero pieces it out to the heroine's son James, an RAF pilot. It is late-30's London, with WW II looming, and overworked and deeply exhausted young internist Edward Haggard is learning to cut under the tutelage of top surgeon Vincent Cushing and senior pathologist Ratcliff Vaughan. At a party, Haggard receives a silent smile from Vaughan's wife, Fanny, and is at once obsessed by her--as, indeed, she must be with him. Before long they have secret meetings at the Two Eagles pub and many a sexual rendezvous in his digs. McGrath charts the deepening of their adulterous passion in the same fine spirit used by modern masters of obsession, from the Japanese to Nabokov, and while this delights, it also brings on d‚j... vu. As becomes inevitable in the disease of passion, Edward and Fanny's affair forms a boil that fate must lance. Pathologist Ratcliff, smelling of Formalin and human rot when he comes to his wife's bed, plays the mythic emotional icicle until in rage he pushes Edward down a flight of steps, breaking Edward's hip. The hip is bolted together with a metal piece Edward names ``Spike,'' and Spike's pain leads Edward into lasting morphine addiction, costs him his role in surgery, and demotes him to general practice. Then Fanny comes down with nephritis.... Meanwhile, James becomes an angel in Spitfires, and quite literally his dead mothers's embodiment.... An unbearably memorable ending lifts this to classic level while the thin bright nerves of the storyline are padded with magnificent surgical detail, hospital lore, and moods you can rub your finger down. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
McGrath, one of the foremost practitioners of the "new gothic," has written a stormy tale of obsession. Set in Britain on the eve of World War II, it involves Edward Haggard, a young doctor in a London hospital, who falls for Fanny Ratcliff, the wife of an older physician. The attraction is mutual, and they begin a brief, passionate affair. After a calamitous run-in with the husband, Haggard leaves London, buying a crumbling seaside mansion and the practice of a retiring doctor. His feelings for the now-deceased Fanny grow to unbearable intensity several years later after a visit by her son, a young fighter pilot, and his obsession takes a bizarre erotic twist. An example of the psychological side of the gothic, this is a haunting portrayal of a man broken by passion. Recommended for fanciers of this genre.
- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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