There was a time when I feared that Alison Kennedy's undoubted knack for whimsy might distract her from the growing strengths that make her like no other contemporary writer. But she has breasted the high seas of her talent and is now able to express the preoccupations that lie in the depths. The title story of Original Bliss, her recent collection of short stories, displayed a gambolling ease with those slippery escape artists, love and sex. She has the richest pornographic empathy of any female writer working in English today (within the 'literary' canon; I don't know about the topshelfers, but I doubt they can match her delicacy, veracity, and avoidance of clinical words as well as of euphemisms).
This new novel is exceedingly ambitious. It is the story of a quest, of an almost knightly series of ordeals, over a period of seven years. At its profoundest level it is a story of father-daughter love lost and found, and a long look at the business of being a