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Duncan, Helen.

Toronto. Simon & Pierre Publishing, 1988. 180pp. paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-88924-207-0. CIP

Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Doctor Ellis and his family live in one of the "outpost of empire" communities that were the last bastions of outmoded conventions of gentility in the early twentieth century. Though all will soon be swept away in the whirlwind that is to come, few in August 1913 even suspect the approach of war.

Mrs. Ellis welcomes the unexpected presence of the polished German visitors who appear upon the family doorstep as a breath of fresh air in her stifled life; her husband reacts adversely as she blossoms visibly under their influence. Alone of the family, Franklin, a small boy, sees the two men as enemies. He has seen them prowling about the Sarnia Bridge, where they have no legitimate reason to be, and he has heard them lie about their activities, but this Is a time in which children are expected to be seen and not heard. No one will pay attention to the lad's suspicions.

The tangled threads of intrigue, of inbred small-town life, of slow-simmering frustrations and of childish fantasies come together in a day of terrible tragedy. Duncan's story is a labyrinthine web of intricate plotting rich in characterization, although marred by patches of unlikely dialogue. Her particular gift lies in the re-creation of a time and a place in history on the very brink of unimagined change.

This is a novel that was intended for, and will be enjoyed by, a sophisticated readership with an appreciation for the meticulous reconstruction of a sleepy post-colonial Canada that was.

Joan McGrath, Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, Ont.
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