Author: Patrick McGrath
Original language: English
Publisher: Vintage, London, 1997
This exuberantly spooky novel, in which horror, repressed eroticism, and sulfurous social comedy intertwine like the vines in an overgrown English garden, is now a major motion picture, starring Alan Bates, Sting, and Theresa Russell.
Witty, weird and highly enjoyable, this gothic British tale is aptly titled. The set-up is macabre: a distinguished paleontologist is brain-damaged and slowly turning into a vegetable. He cannot speak, but narrates an interior monologue of all he sees and hears: a lot of sexual shenanigans and a particularly grisly murder, all centered around “Fledge,” the butler, who has ambitions. The stylistic joke is that all these horrors take place in a quaint, genteel English country setting, where the village is “Pock-on-the-Fling,” the pub, “The Hodge and Purlet” and the barrister, “Sir Fleckley Tome.” However deadly the deed, the language is always decorous and impeccably mannered. The result is strangely hilarious—as if a Stephen King story were being told in the manner of a latter-day Anthony Trollope.
Magnificently grim … [McGrath] serves up this cold slice of modern Gothic with the deranged relish of a Poe but also the acrid irony of a Waugh.