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Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain
     

Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain

by Jeffrey Moore
 

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It's by no means clear just how much control Jeremy Davenant has over his own destiny. He believes that the blueprint of his future exists on a page torn out of a book chosen randomly twenty-two years ago, in a literary game of blindman's buff orchestrated by his scoundrel uncle Gerard. The Page is from an encyclopedia, and is supposed to chart out his life, which

Overview

It's by no means clear just how much control Jeremy Davenant has over his own destiny. He believes that the blueprint of his future exists on a page torn out of a book chosen randomly twenty-two years ago, in a literary game of blindman's buff orchestrated by his scoundrel uncle Gerard. The Page is from an encyclopedia, and is supposed to chart out his life, which may or may not explain why the Zulu tyrant Shaka, the Indian love epic Shakuntala, and the Ukrainian town Shakhtyorsk all start to feature in his life-along with William Shakespeare and, of course, his dark lady.

Romantic and fatalistic, Jeremy finds himself teaching Shakespeare at a university, living in an apartment owned by Ukrainians, and waiting for his destiny to unfold. And unfold it does: one glance from a dark lady in the street below, and his life veers into chaotic mischance and misadventure. The woman is half-Indian, half-Czech Milena, who is even more mysterious than Shakespeare's own ladylove. And although Milena is ambivalent and complex, and requires as much decoding as the Page, Jeremy stumbles after her in his determination to follow his fate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A young Shakespeare professor pursues the problematic girl of his dreams in this Canadian writer's first novel, a lively, clever, but eventually labored yarn that focuses almost exclusively on Jeremy Davenant's duck-and-chase affair with the elusive Milena Sarakali Modjeska, whom Jeremy sees as his proverbial "dark lady." He meets Milena in a chance encounter in a movie theater, and his imagination and hormones immediately go into overdrive at the prospect of dating her. But the party-happy Milena is less than enthusiastic, and Jeremy seems oblivious to the shallowness of her personality, continuing his insistent pursuit despite what he learns about her seriously checkered upbringing. Milena redeems herself, though, in an entertaining scene at a stuffy faculty gathering, as she outwits a boorish professor. Unfortunately, Milena's lack of appeal is a mere side issue in the book the real problem is that Moore has written a lengthy one-note samba in which Milena endlessly teases Jeremy, causing them to break up and get back together again. Moore fills in some of the narrative gaps with heartfelt scenes in which Jeremy connects with his free-spirited Uncle Gerald (in reality his mother's eccentric ex-boyfriend); Moore's satirical view of academia has real bite. His ability to craft engaging scenes with witty dialogue and solid character work promises well for the future, but in this outing Jeremy's emotional rite of passage is overextended, and readers may not stay glued long enough to enjoy the series of revelations at the end. Rights sold in Canada (French and English), France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan and the U.K. (May 13) Forecast: The novel is plastered with blurbs from the Canadian press, but it may be in paperback that it does best a film adaptation directed by Oscar-winning director Malcolm Clark is in the works and, if successful, could spur sales down the road. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Peter Darbyshire
In its layering of meaning upon meaning,of endless referential chains that efface all differences between text and world, Moore takes on all the labyrinthian twistings and metaphysical explorations of an Eco or a Borges.
Quill & Quire
Kirkus Reviews
Yet another unworldly intellectual goes off the deep-end with obsession for a mysterious girl who won't return his affections but also just won't get out of his life completely. As far as university professors go, Jeremy Davenant is not the pick of the litter. A transplant to Montreal from a ruined English family, he was raised mostly by an eccentric Uncle Gerard, who once blindfolded Jeremy and had him find a book in Gerard's library and tear out a page at random. Referred to afterward as "The Page," this document (an S page from an encyclopedia) is supposed to chart out Jeremy's entire life. For day-to-day affairs, it's little help, of course, and by the time we're introduced to Jeremy he's teaching Shakespeare at a Montreal university—with forged credentials. Having just broken up with his girlfriend for no good reason, he's also moved to the kind of bombed-out neighborhood where dreams of gentrification are far away and few. Not only that, but Jeremy chose the apartment building mainly for its proximity to the abode of a raven-haired beauty named Milena, who once sat next to him in a movie theater and has been an obsession for him ever since. Even though his extravagantly Oscar Wilde–esque friend Jacques has tried to warn Jeremy off his pursuit of the sullen, moody, and quite possibly gay Milena, Jeremy shambles on. Moore is best at detailing his hero's haphazard woo-ing and generally sad-sack life. But whenever the story leaves the well-trodden streets of Montreal—described by Moore with an easy familiarity—or academe, it finds itself on less solid ground. Jeremy's relationship with Gerard, especially everything regarding The Page, takes up far too much of the book's alreadysomewhat-too-many four hundred pages. Still, in certain of its ways, a charming tale about a loser in love.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399148644
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
05/13/2002
Edition description:
1 AMER ED
Pages:
385
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.58(h) x 1.32(d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Moore is currently a freelance translator and lecturer at the Université de Montréal. Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book.

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