Ben told me.
Alan Desland lives a perfectly satisfactory life as a mildly successful ceramics dealer in a quiet English town. His passion--if it can be called that--is for his lovely, fragile figurines and tea sets. What he doesn't realize is that what he's always accepted as happiness is actually equivalent to being chained to the wall in Plato's cave.
Alan's eyes are simultaneously opened and blinded on the day he is released from his cave: the day in Copenhagen when he meets a young German woman named Käthe (or maybe Karin, depending on when your copy of the book was published). She's captivating and alluring and is the most beautiful woman Alan has ever seen. And, what do you know? She actually falls for him, too.
But this is not a sweet, happy, fun love story. (And a good thing, too, or I probably would have hated it.) There's a dark, eerie undercurrent of secrets that slowly becomes clear to the reader, who then watches this realization dawn on Alan through a series of creepy psychic manifestations.
I guessed Käthe's secret long before I think I was supposed to--certainly well before Alan figured it out--but that didn't ruin the story for me at all. Even though, as Elvis put it, "the imagery and omens became almost oppressively obvious" as the story went on, the climactic scene where Alan's fears are confirmed was still spine-chilling enough for me even though it wasn't a surprise. This is a book that definitely reached "critical mass", and that's always welcome.
Between Watership Down and The Girl in a Swing, Richard Adams is now two for two with me. I'm ready to put another of his books on my bloated TBR list, and Ben recommends The Plague Dogs next. There was also a film adaptation of The Girl in 1988, which I probably won't be watching because it's not available through netflix. Have you seen it, or have you read any other books by Adams?
Now for something completely different…
3 days ago