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Friday, 2 September 2011

The Water Theatre by Lindsay Clarke, Review

Totally absorbing, real literature.

The Water Theatre's hold on the reader is difficult to define, but I think it succeeds superbly as a work of fiction precisely because it operates on so many levels. As pure story, the characters are engaging and the plot (which I won't spoil) gripping. But this is also a serious work, with big ideas and depth.

On the one hand it is a story of one man's transition from naive teenager to man-of-the-world, and through that into some sort of acceptance and maturity. His family and the surrogate family he aspires to be part of, thinking them preferable to his own humble beginnings, both feel real, and are portrayed along with all their conflicting tensions - the complexities of class, politics and religious allegiances.

On the other hand, it is an exploration of how the imaginative faculty can bring us to a different more metaphorical experience of the world, and how old rituals can have transformative power. The fact that we might all be living out our own myth is hinted at by the archetypal names of the characters and by the structure of the plot.

It asks very real questions about the nature of evil and the best way to change an oppressive regime.The novel spans forty years and three continents, so this is a book with scope. It brings us back to asking about where a poetic vision and a spirituality might meet, and whether we can keep our innocence as we gain our experience.

If I could give this book more than five stars I would. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of my reading year.

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