Readers are left longing for a sequel. The Don evades the theatrical flames of hell, as well as those of a real volcanic eruption, to all but settle for a quiet life and a wife before disaster and physical decay, more ghastly than anything the Commendatore had to offer, finally catch up with him. Before that, we are treated to Leporello's low-life childhood and adolescence in fine picaresque style. . Anti-slavers, they foresee the shining vision of a free colony in Africa where all races and classes can live together in harmony.
By the end, the mood of gentle regret and a sense of living in a time out of place resembles no writer so much as Chekhov. He is invited to return to his home country in the Baltic by the renascent nationalist movement, and looks back on his life before and during the Second World War under both German and Russian occupations. Leporello is an extraordinarily skilful novel. When disease begins to ravage him both in mind and in body, we can hardly fail to wonder whether its assaults may not have some relevance to our own age and its ills. Click on image Set at the time of the Suez Crisis in 1956, this beguiling and blackly comic novel depicts the lives of a crumbling family of die-hard imperialists. The depth and eloquence of this fine collection, however, might surprise even the most ardent admirers of his novels.
The mysterious guests release memories and truths he had preferred to forget. To lead them, they have Sir George Whitcroft; to sail their ship, the gallant Captain Coupland; Dr Owen to treat their ills; the Reverend Tolchard to guide their spiritual lives; and Caspar Jeavons, a young aristocratic poet, to record their exploits. When they land, Muranda seems a paradise. At present, William Palmer's reputation languishes in that queer hinterland where the esteem of fellow writers is cancelled out by the indifference of the world at large. Fruit hangs from the trees, the waters swarm with fish, the local king is friendly. He lives in south-west London.
There is a wonderful scene when scaly old Mrs Covington, having decided to go out in the car with her son, minces downstairs in an ancient driving costume complete with peacock-feathered cloche hat and is momentarily transformed. Finding himself in Brittany just before the Allied invasion, this novel is about how he attempts to make refuge for himself and his lover. It would be a shame if this novel didn't provoke the attention he clearly deserves. She is identified as Starr Faithfull, a girl from a good family, but a picture begins to form of someone promiscuous and mentally unstable, who had been abused as a child by her guardian, a prominent politician. The later part of the book is again unexpected.
He reviews regularly for the Independent and other journals. Others prefer to laze and swim, to drink and dance at night. More than a hundred men, women and children set sail from London bound for Muranda, an island off the west coat of Africa. He revels in character and language, in the gradual, intricate revelation of plot-lines and themes; and while his protagonists dwell on failure and regret, Palmer, with this volume to his name, should be doing quite the opposite. But then the tropical rains begin and beat relentlessly down, fever strikes arbitrarily, and violence reveals itself in this brave new world. Furthermore, it is only in the novel's long middle section that the Don is himself, the insatiable champion in the lists of love of Leporello's Catalogue Aria, aided and abetted by his ever-faithful servant. For Palmer, Don Giovanni's world is an uneasy alliance of bestial, superstitious groundlings and enlightenment savants, both of which he describes with impressive panache.
William Palmer is the author of five novels, The Good Republic, Leporello, The Contract, The Pardon of Saint Anne and The India House, and a collection of short stories, Four Last Things. He was awarded a Travelling Scholarship by the Society of Authors in 1997. But he is not simply his master's voice, and Don Giovanni does not even appear until about a quarter of the way through. Ultimately the India House builds on its somewhat dusty foundations to altogether dazzling effect. By the end, when the Don has returned home to die, we realise that for all his callousness and brutality, we like Leporello have grown to love him. A book of poems, The Island Rescue, won the Collection Prize at the Listowel Writers' Week festival in Ireland in 2006. .
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