I’d no idea what to expect: I knew he’d written The French Lieutenant’s Woman, but had neither read nor seen that. I (still) don’t even know if he’s British or American. But this book is long-lasting in its effects for two reasons. First is the way it’s written: most of it is in dialogue form – transcriptions of interviews carried out by a lawyer (Henry Ayscough) in 1736, and these are biting and subtle; but the occasional pieces of straight narrative, including the lengthy initial scene, are in a style I haven’t met before: fabulously careful and detached accounts of every action and gesture, including the absence of actions and gestures, by the characters. As for the story itself, it’s an 18th-century thriller, involving disguise, deceit and, either time travel, aliens, or some seriously bizarre religious visions. It’s a shifting, clever, piece: who the main character actually is (in terms of which of the characters is actually the main one) emerges gradually, and we don’t really know for sure until the epilogue.
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