Distant Sheep

Penelope Fitzgerald

  • Alice by John Bayley
    Duckworth, 192 pp, £14.99, May 1994, ISBN 0 7156 2618 3

John Bayley’s new novel is largely about those who are had on, or taken in, and this may well include his readers, who need to keep their wits about them. To begin with, he conjures up a couple of innocents. There was an innocent, too, as hero in his last novel, In Another Country, published in 1955. But Oliver, a young officer with the British army of occupation, was a worrier and a sensitive, risking trouble for the sake of his German girlfriend, and contrasted with his hideously successful rival. In Alice the two innocents are uncompromisingly green, in the sense that the Vicar of Wakefield, or Daisy Miller, or Crocodile Dundee, are green, their misfortunes illustrating the world’s vanities.

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