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This review is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

THE WRECKAGE OF RUSKIN Peter Hoyle, Brantwood (Carcanet) £8.95
Peter Hoyle, Camera Lucida (PN Review 54 and 55)
 
A repeated structure in Peter Hoyle's two published novels (The Man In The Iron Mask, Brantwood) is of a male couple seeking to master, but mastered by, a Dead (literary) Father - Dumas in the earlier novel, now Ruskin. In both cases the burden of the obsession (Brantwood is subtitled 'The story of an obsession') passes from one member of the pair to the other, leaving him to grapple with the paternal legacy, a text or oeuvre. In Brantwood this Word constantly eludes the efforts of the unnamed narrator to tie it to the full presence of its author. Ruskin the man, investigated through the recollections of those who knew or were near him during his final troubled years at the house Brantwood on the shores of Lake Coniston, remains vague and elusive. Forced eventually to acknowledge the unrealizability of his project of disinterment - which has in the meantime been abandoned by his cousin collaborator - the narrator withdraws into dispirited isolation. The story, told over three time-zones, with the last separated from the 1929-31 investigation by the watershed of World War II, concludes with a series of musings upon the lack of any closure to the information received and events noted - 'I have too many theories. There is too little firm ground.'

Then with Camera Lucida the dubiety is replaced by an appropriation of Ruskin's literary identity, in the form of a prolix supplement to his Praeterita, a work written during the brief periods ...


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