This novel is the one most influenced by John Buchan's study of Greek tragedy. It is a haunting, heartbreaking novel of romance and duty, where the social expectations of the main characters shape the paths they tread. Thwarted happiness is painful to read at any time, but when it is described under the masterful hand of a clear-sighted writer, the reader's protesting heart is wrung again and again by the picture of what might have been. There is ultimate satisfaction in the conclusion of this novel, but it is the consummation of a tragedy played out in the cool, abstract air of Olympus, not the snug, personal triumph of the individual over the pea under the mattress. The principles of faithfulness to duty, and submerging oneself under the sea of the greater good are made tangible and accessible to the most unwilling reader. The higher calling of an exile's death seems to unite the key figure with all his countrymen in their many ill-matched contests over time. This painful revelation drives home the half-hearted nature in most of humanity, which prefers homely comforts to self-sacrificing effort. The conclusion of this work illumines a path of understanding that can reconcile the reader to put perspective on small disappointments and missed satisfactions in fiction and real life. The telescoping of the immensity of a single gifted man's death into a purposeful cog in the turning of the wheel of eternity is a foreign, yet broadening philosophy, which shakes the reader's complacency, willing or not. This book is a difficult one to enjoy, but a compelling one to contemplate.
Christine Drews February 2001
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