PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Kate BinghamPuddle
(PN Review 236)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 2
Gratis Ad 1
Next Issue Michelle Holmes on ‘Whitman, Alabama’ Les Murray Eight Poems Gabriel Josipovici Who Dares Wins: Reflections on Translation Maureen N. McLane Four Poems James Womack Europe (after the German of Marie Luise Kaschnitz)

This review is taken from PN Review 195, Volume 37 Number 1, September - October 2010.

KNOWING THE UNKNOWABLE SAM ADAMS, Prichard’s Nose (Y Lolfa) £9.95

There’s a sub-genre of historical fiction intercutting historical narrative with another story set in the present. The literary high- water mark is probably A.S. Byatt’s Possession, juxtaposing a modern literary detective-cum-love story with the life of fictional Victorian poet Randolf Henry Ash. A curious effect of this novel is that the ‘present’ story, told in heavily plotted detective story mode, becomes greatly less real than Ash’s world, conveyed at first in researched fragments, and gradually more vividly and fully, until we enter utterly private experience. Paradoxically, the present is less convincingly conveyed in the conventions of ‘traditional’ fiction while the Victorian past is rendered more powerfully by a multiplicity of techniques that amounts to a kind of disguised modernism.

Veteran poet and critic Sam Adams has chosen this difficult, promising genre for his first novel. Prichard’s Nose is engaging, smoothly written, and powerfully evokes a life lived at the tail of the eighteenth and through the early decades of the nineteenth centuries in rural Wales and Regency London. The double narrative structure does also bring problems of balance and pace.

In a sense, Adams takes on a greater level of difficulty than Possession: unlike Ash, Thomas Prichard was a real man, and Adams has built this novel on his own painstaking research into a remarkable figure. The novel parallels the story of Martin Jenkins, a down-at-heel would-be author recovering from a failed marriage, with what he discovers in his researches into Prichard, a lonely poetaster ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image