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Dance To The Music Of Time
on November 3, 2002
The ephemeral bygone quality of Ms. Vine's characters during their summer long idyll at Wyvis Hall reminded me of Anthony Powell's dream-like but objective viewings. The author toys with us in this complex novel. The reader spends two-thirds of the book not mulling over what has happened, but what is going to happen.
New owners of beautiful Wyvis Hall uncover human bones in the pet cemetery on the grounds of the estate. This sets in motion events which have been hidden for the past eleven years. The story goes back and forth from the present to the fateful summer of 1976. The tale is told from the viewpoints of Adam, Rufus and Shiva. Adam earns his father's undying enmity by inheriting his great-uncle's estate Wyvis Hall when he is 19. Adam with casual friend, Rufus drives down from London just intending to have a look at the property and going on for holidays in Greece. The estate works its magic on the young men and their stay extends to the entire summer. They sell off items in the house to keep themselves in money, drink quantities of wine, laze about and keep the world at bay. The party enlarges to include Zosie, a fey childlike homeless girl, Shiva, a highly proper Indian and his companion, the mystic Vivienne.
The reader knows something is going to happen this summer because of the prologue when the bones are discovered. But what? We know the event has had a profound effect upon Adam and Shiva that has entirely changed their lives. Rufus seems to have escaped unscathed and is living according to his original plan. None of the characters are particularly likable, let alone lovable. We don't connect with them, but do feel this terrible unease as the tale unfolds. The buildup is masterful, the horror is cataclysmic and the epilogue is chilling. Contrary to a few of the reviews posted here, this book does not have a "happy" ending at all.
Ms. Vine/Rendell deserves all the prizes she received for this craftily constructed novel. Some of the issues touched upon are profound; yet we are never allowed to be sidetracked into a case of the existential vapors. Recommended.