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Kitty and Virgil


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Paul Bailey's novel "Gabriel's Lament" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

About the Author

Paul Bailey is the author of At the Jerusalem (1967) which won the Somerset Maugham Award,Trespasses (1970),A Distant Likeness (1973), Peter Smart's Confessions (1977), shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Old Soldiers (1980), and Sugar Cane (1993). He was the first recipient of the E.M. Forster Award and won a George Orwell Prize for his essay 'The Limitations of Despair'.


Bailey, whose first novel, At the Jerusalem, won several British awards and who has been twice shortlisted for the Booker since, is too little known here, as the arrival of the luminous book, his first in seven years, reminds us. It is at once a wistful and tender love story and a harrowing account of how people from two utterly different cultures and ways of looking at the world can find, then lose, each other. Kitty Crozier is a sweet 30-something Londoner who works as an indexer for publishers. Into her life one day comes Virgil Florescu, a refugee from the Romanian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu who had escaped his unhappy country by swimming the Danube at night, and later found work as an attendant in Green Park. Virgil is a superb creation, a poet who is at once funny and self-knowing, has a sly wit and an abiding gift for happiness. The problem in his life is the continuing existence of his father, who under the sway of bestial wartime nationalism has committed unspeakable acts-acts for which gentle Virgil feels he must atone. A cast of scintillating characters is mostly revealed in brilliant dialogue set pieces: Kitty's father, a vain, foppish man who had been a male model in America and has taken up with a mordantly witty butler in his dotage; Kitty's sister, Daisy, a terror in her youth, now unhappily waspish in middle age; even Virgil's landlady, a former opera singer succored by her unforgettable memories about life on the lower rungs of that art. Bailey's fertile invention and kindly humor spark them all to life, and the ultimate tribute to his book is that it manages to be unutterably sad without being in any way mawkish, and that it reminds one again and again of the sheer pleasures of a story told with empathy, elegance and an unfailing delight in the language. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

When Kitty Crozier meets dissident Romanian poet and compulsive storyteller Virgil Florescu in the hospital, love blooms immediately. Their tale is played out against a backdrop of repression and suffering during the Ceausescu regime, Kitty's reunion with her much-married father, and the crumbling marriage of Kitty's twin, Daisy. Virgil's is the sensitive and charming voice in which most of the story is told, and it is the unspeakable family secret that he carries that propels much of the narrative. Fittingly, this memorable and moving novel ends with five poems from Virgil to Kitty, which encapsulate much of what he has told her. Very funny yet deeply tragic, this is a good bet for all libraries, especially where Bailey's prize-winning earlier novels (At the Jerusalem) are known.--Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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