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By (author) Jacqueline Simms
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 28th Feb 1982
Dimensions: w 140mm h 200mm
Weight: 274g
ISBN-10: 0701126167
ISBN-13: 9780701126162
Barcode No: 9780701126162

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Kirkus US
Ubiquitous in American fiction a few seasons ago, incest seems to have made the usual delayed jump across the Atlantic - with Patrick McGinley's Foggage (above) and this odd little English first novel the most recent examples. A man named Michael is the primary narrator here, first recalling his 1940s childhood, much of it spent at the home of grandmother and science-genius grandfather. But the main memories are of younger, musically gifted sister Fleur, who early on declared herself "married" to Michael. . . and insisted on their going through conjugal ceremonies, first in pre-teen pantomime, eventually in the flesh. ("I hated it," Fleur confesses in an interpolated mini-memoir.) And when Fleur interrupts Michael's experiments in grandfather's laboratory, she is killed in the ensuing explosion, leaving her brother with "murder on his conscience." In the decades that follow, then, Michael will follow in Fleur's musical footsteps, becoming a professional cellist - but also a physicist, looking for "interdependence" in this "perambulation between science and music." (Both pursuits "may produce an identical tension and, in moments of mastery, that rare orgasm of mind that makes it impossible to distinguish emotion from mental vigour") He'll eventually marry Japanese translator Kiyoko, the marriage fading while daughter Sumi shows the hereditary musical talent. But Sumi will also show another seemingly inherited trait: incestuous longing for her father, which she reveals after stumbling on Fleur's memoir. And Michael, after fighting off his own reciprocal feelings ("I wondered guiltily if it was all my fault, whether somehow the facts of my own history had irresistibly attracted my helpless daughter"), allows himself to be seduced once again - followed by guilt, separation, and ultimate reconciliation with Kiyoko at Sumi's first big Paris concert in 1985. Oblique, austere, faintly ironic, with the incest motif seemingly (but not very effectively) used as a metaphor rather than as clinical or romantic subject-matter: an uninvolving literary exercise, enlivened by starkly crisp prose and the music/science musings. (Kirkus Reviews)