The Standing Pool by Adam Thorpe - review by John de Falbe

John de Falbe

Taking A Dive

The Standing Pool


Jonathan Cape 423pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Two Cambridge historians, Nick and Sarah Mallinson, are on sabbatical with their three small daughters in a Languedoc farmhouse. Now in his mid fifties, Nick is a former Marxist. Although the certainties of his youth have waned with the times, he is still intellectually sharp and believes that it should be possible to reduce the world’s suffering. His wife is a former doctoral student of his, nineteen years younger, attractive, clever and eager to shoot the breeze about the Chad oilfields or some point of historiography that preoccupies her husband. But where she can accept that ‘all we need is geniality and kindness’, he feels ashamed of this softness and clutches at ‘truth and justice … wanting a habitable future for my children and their children ... creation, not destruction.’

The house is rented from Alan and Lucy Sandler, whose enthusiasm for the place was knocked when a local builder fell from the roof and was killed. Alan is an American based in London, a dodgy art dealer getting uncomfortable about the dangers of smuggling antiquities from Iraq and thinking

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