Suffocation

Alex Clark

  • Oxygen by Andrew Miller
    Sceptre, 323 pp, £14.99, September 2001, ISBN 0 340 72825 6

Flamboyant historical staging characterised Andrew Miller’s first two novels, Ingenious Pain and Casanova: his third makes use of a very different kind of theatricality. Here, in two discrete, barely overlapping stories – one of a dying woman attended by her sons, the other of an exiled Hungarian playwright tempted by a shameful memory into a last-ditch act of political redemption – the stage directions are slow and deliberate, the settings minimal and swiftly sketched. Every action carries a purposeful weight that leaves no room for chaotic exuberance.

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