Lindsay’s second novel won the Whitbread Prize for Fiction in 1989 and was, according to Malcolm Bradbury, perhaps the first to explore the possibilities of a dual narrative structure set in two different time zones.
The setting is a remote Norfolk Village in which contemporary characters are attempting to understand the mysterious nature of the alchemical secret which a highly intelligent young woman and her self-absorbed father were investigating in the same village in 1848. As events unfold in both centuries, it becomes clear that the two narratives are on a collision course across time.
“This dazzling novel left me stunned. Clarke’s flights of imagination leave you breathless, as does his ability to write with such luminous precision that you feel you’ve actually stepped into the story… a modern masterpiece.“
(Val Hennessy, The Daily Mail)
“The very craziness of the Hermetic Quest is turned into a sane metaphor, representing a glimpse of how symbolic the world already is, how much it is made in our image, littered with fragments of our dreams.”
(Michael Wood, The London Review of Books)
“It is bold and generous as few novels are today…Clarke commands a style that is sonorous, subtle, exact…He has the measure both of a society completely determined by Christian orthodoxy and of one, equally alarmingly, without any fundamental certainties at all.”
(Colin Greenland, The Sunday Times)
“The effect is of a rich, symbolical maze: an artificial entertainment, full of surprises and incidental pleasures“
(D.J. Taylor, The Independent)