Sir Michael Levey and Shirley Conran have very little in common, except that they have both just published first novels, and that each was better known before for literary work of a non-fictional nature. Tempting Fate, it would be tempting to say, is a novel of adolescence, a sort of British, Eighties Catcher in the Rye, with a sting in its sodomitical tale.
It is slight, but artful. It is, perhaps, not exactly what one expected from the pen of the Director of the National Gallery – it certainly owes nothing to his previously published work – but the story, and the manner of its telling, has a dandyish elegance not unworthy of the husband of the more established novelist, Brigid Brophy. Lady Levey’s husband also did his own, perfectly competent drawing for the mildly suggestive dust-jacket.
Not so much a Bildungsroman, as a progressive revelation of wickedness, the teenage hero of Tempting Fate does not, as is more usual in the course of the novel, grow up. His character docs not actually change; instead, the narrator allows us to know more about him. The more or