British author Caute ( News from Nowhere ) steeps his stunning novel of sexual politics in literary allusions. The title echoes Victorian statesman/novelist Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil: Or the Two Nations (which describes the working class pitted against aristocrats) and later applies to a scandal-monger's expose of Caute's protagonist. Michael Parsons falls ``instantly in love'' with his South African cousin Veronica when she comes to London in 1939 to live with his family. By the time his parents die in WW II, he knows that V is his half-sister. He justifies his passion via entries in his journal that record historical incidents of sibling incest and its endurance as a classic theme, copiously citing the Jacobean tragedy 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore and Ibsen's Ghosts . Determined to destroy his rival, V's American soldier fiance, Mike stoops to deceit and trickery. When V is hurt in a bomb raid and becomes dependent on barbiturates, her inhibitions abate and her mind deteriorates. Mike tenderly cares for her as their love flowers. Years later, Mike, now a Tory cabinet minister under Thatcher, is hounded by journalist Bert Frame, a slum-born bully--the two again personifying the ``two nations '' of Britain's social classes. The abundant details of British politics may elude some readers, but Caute melds pointed satire and eloquent pathos to produce a memorable tale. (Sept.)
Michael is almost 12 when Veronica, introduced to him as his cousin, comes to live with the family. She is 15, mysterious, beautiful, and indulgent toward Michael's awakening sexuality. By the time he finds out she is his half-sister, he is too far gone to care. Forty years later the youthful illicit relationship threatens to ruin Michael's successful political career. Pulled into the story by sex and sin, the sophisticated reader will quickly recognize this as a political allegory exploring Disraeli's theme of confrontation between Britain's social classes and its meaning to the future of the nation. The novel is skillfully crafted, using the protagonists to tell the story through teasing flashbacks that gradually reveal the outcome of the incestuous relationship. Due to the overt political message and the British point of reference, this is not for popular collections. Those with a demand for more serious contemporary fiction should consider.-- Marlene M. Kuhl, Baltimore Cty. P.L.