The novel is a love story inspired by a curious feature of the life of King Solomon, that though granted the power to understand man he is later condemned for worshipping the god of his wives. The story is set in the West Country and concerns an Irish writer, Richard Butler, escaping London and a failed relationship, who becomes involved with what seems at first a literary coterie but which turns out to be a magic circle intent upon the salvation of a culture. Knowing that magic requires a sacrifice of love, Butler tries to protect the likely victim, only to find himself, through his love for Louise Grainger, the daughter of the hidden master of the circle, intended as the sacerdos of the operation. There ensues a struggle between the magicians and Richard and Louise, pitting the truth of art against the corruptions of will, that leads the couple to undertake a counter-work of love, an act of purgation intended to define the only possible basis for the regeneration of a corrupted world.
The novel is not an indulgent fantasy, characterisation and the rendering of situations and events are kept within the bounds of conventional realism. Some sections convey imaginative experiences, extensively in the latter half of the novel; these are realised without straining the credulity of the reader (1) by careful preparation of contexts in the first half of the work and (2) by having Butler narrate the work as a journal, which permits the use a range of techniques to juxtapose and overlap different levels of experience. There are, unavoidably, some rebarbative elements, but an attempt is made to redeem these by careful attention to characterisation and motivation, and by the employment of humour, black and not so dark, and, most of all, by insight.
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by Philip Matthews
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by Philip Matthews
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by on October 24, 2016
- Philip Matthews, February 2014
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