After the surprising success of The Chymical Wedding and a dispiriting public controversy about that novel’s worthiness for the major prize it was awarded, (a controversy in which Lindsay declined to take part, and which was probably whipped up for publicity purposes), it took him some time to pull together his third, experimental novel.
Set on the Autumn Equinox of 1991, it tells of an involuntary ordeal of transformation undergone by its central character Ronan, who has travelled to Cornwall in search of a lost lover, hoping that he can persuade her to return. In a modern version of the story of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady as told by Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, the powerful process of Ronan’s breakdown and breakthrough is paralleled in stories drawn from the medieval romances of courtly love and other legends.
“I now see Clarke’s book as I imagine Hardy himself might have done. The poet in [Hardy]would surely have appreciated Clarke’s sensitivity to the Cornish landscape, to nature and to women. I shall continue to read his work with sympathy and interest.”
(John Fowles, The Spectator)
“It is a new kind of novel…With extraordinary compression and skill. Clarke makes the novel happen simultaneously as story, thriller, inner or ‘feeling’ narrative, dreamscape, allegory, ritual and initiation.”
(Jay Ramsay, Resurgence)
“Lindsay Clarke is an exceptional writer. But perhaps the most striking aspect of this novel is his empathetic treatment of the women characters. At its core is the understanding that male domination, either by force or through fantasy, is destructive to love between men and women.”
(Ruth Pavey, The New Statesman)