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A Pure Clear Light


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About the Author

Madeleine St John was born in Sydney and graduated from the University there in 1963. She has spent most of the intervening years living in London. This is the author's second novel, her first being Women in Black.


"I haven't got any imagination, as you perfectly well know," says coolly blonde, 30ish accountant Gillian Selkirk to her married lover, Simon Beaufort. She may be the only one who doesn't in this deceptively calm and studiously ironic study of love sacred and profane. After Simon's wife, Flora, lapsed Catholic and mother of three, leaves their pleasant London home and takes the kids on holiday in France, TV director Simon, to his great surprise, falls in love with Gillian. The siren's song of "pure unadulterated sex" proves irresistible to agnostic Simon, though he is determined not to upset the applecart with Flora. Meanwhile, he sets about casting his next film, looking for an actress as brilliant as the "plain" English ones he knows, but with a more voluptuous bodyÄa French or Italian, he thinks. As Simon is snared by the temptations of film and flesh, Flora, returned from France but still feeling his absence, is drawn to the local Anglican church. By the time Flora's friend Lydia catches Simon and Gillian together at a Bayswater brasserie, the end of their secret affair is almost an anticlimax. What prevails is Flora's austere yet human yearning for God's love, and her determination that the marital relationship must go on in a life she now considers "transitory." Exploring the tension between worldly and religious love as did Graham Greene in The Power and the Glory and Andr‚ Gide in Strait Is the Gate, Booker Prize-nominee St. John does produce "a pure clear light" that springs from Flora's spiritual crisis. Her prose is swift and beautifully spare; the dialogue is sharp and witty; yet the tone of the narrative is chilly, like white winter light, more of a hedge against emotional suicide than a life-affirming renewal of love. In a curious way, Flora's need to shape her religious imagination to escape Simon's worldly imagination comes full circle to resemble sexy and candid Gillian, who has no imagination at all. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

The latest novel from St. John (Stairway to Paradise) explores an oh-so-British marriage at its crucial turning point. Simon and Flora Beaufort have three perfect children and a comfortable, happy life in London. When Flora takes the children for a month-long vacation in France, Simon stays home to work on his latest film project. At a friend!s dinner party, Simon meets a cool blonde accountant named Gillian Selkirk and is completely drawn to her. As they begin a torrid affair, Flora discovers a new love of her own, in a sense: she is drawn back into her deep religious beliefs. Simon and Flora stray from one another, and things get complicated when Flora!s friend Lydia spots Simon and Gillian getting intimate at a local brasserie. This novel is a quick and witty read, with sharply drawn details. Recommended for public libraries."Beth Gibbs, formerly with P.L. of Charlotte & Mecklenburg Cty., NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

`A triumph of the minimalist, it appraises love, both sacred and profane, desire, pain and the disappointments of this earth with a laser eye.'
The Times

`Graceful and charming... If there are tears in the eyes, they will be tears of pure pleasure at the resolution and consummate workmanship of a small masterpiece.'
Shena Mackay, Independent (on The Woman in Black)

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