Francis King

An American In Paris

The Condor’s Head: An American Romance

By

Chatto & Windus 325pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Though the main narrative of this novel is set in the closing years of the eighteenth century, two near-contemporary chapters bracket it. These – afterthoughts I should guess – are effortful and leaden in comparison with the confident vigour of the rest of the book.

The initial chapter presents us with four people holed up together in the wilds of Idaho: an English male writer, an English girl, and two American men. One of the American men is in love with the other, who in turn is in love with the girl. As though the chapter is a summary of a novel or at least a long short story, we are offered far too much information about these people and their doings in far too cramped a space. When the straight American asserts that his countrymen ‘are great at saying “Hi!” to new people but have no gift for intimacy’, this leads to a discussion of how Western culture has ‘segued from the idea of giving yourself totally to Jesus to one of giving yourself totally to love’. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,
    • 'The day produced countless stories of chance, of people taking one route or another without realising that the dec… ,