Famously, Jane Austen created a fictional universe from 'three or four families in a country village'. In this remarkable first novel, James Fleming achieves something very similar: out of the relationships of two men and one woman in Derbyshire in 1788 he has created a fiction that bears comparison with the great novelists of the nineteenth century. Superficially, the plot is simple. Anthony Apreece covets the land of his young neighbour, Edward Horne. Edward covets Daisy, Anthony's wife. On such simple foundations, James Fleming builds a novel of extraordinary richness, at once a wholly convincing representation of an eighteenth-century world and an utterly modern dissection of two of mankind's most powerful passions: greed and love.
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James Fleming was born in 1944, and has been variously an accountant, farmer, forester, and bookseller. He currently lives in Scotland, where he breeds sheep and cattle.From Publishers Weekly:
Part historical novel, part revisionist tract, part smirking pastiche of the 19th-century domestic melodrama, this first novel from Scottish author Fleming has plenty of panache, but little punch. In 1788, Edward Horne, an eccentric, jocular young man, is persuaded by his ailing mother to leave the excitements of London and return to manage Winterbourne, his family's crumbling rural estate. Upon his arrival, his almost ridiculously pastoral hometown is sent into a minor frenzy of gossip and speculation. Edward is soon befriended by a wealthy landowner, Sir Anthony Apreece, whose avuncular charm conceals an insatiable rapacity and a killer instinct. A triangle of furious covetousness soon develops: Edward finds himself more and more taken with Apreece's pious, beautiful wife, Daisy, while Sir Anthony becomes increasingly desperate to add Winterbourne to his vast holdings. Fleming's prose pushes the melodrama in startlingly unconventional directions; in scene after scene, gentility devolves into near-violent hostility, exposing the greed and solipsism that lay beneath the 18th-century class system. The emotional and political complexity hinted at here, though, is undermined by Fleming's indiscriminate deployment of historical detail, much of which comes straight from British Cultural History 101. (The men in the novel read Tristram Shandy while the women read PamelaDjust one example of how Fleming refers to general trends of the era rather than dealing with specifics.) The most simplistic glossing of the past occurs at the novel's anachronistic denouement, which substitutes wishful thinking for principled revisionism.Finally, this novel is too riddled with compromise and ideological backtracking to attain a broad readershipDthough the author used to be a bookseller, and so could prove a valuable partner in promotional efforts. Fleming can divert, but fails to subvert. (Nov.)
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Book Description Vintage. Paperback. Book Condition: New. UNUSED, VERY GOOD, NOT EX-LIBRARY, 320 pages. Anthony Apreece covets the land of his young neighbour, Edward Horne. Edward covets Daisy, Anthony's wife. In this tale of greed and love, James Fleming has recreated 1788 country life in all its extraordinary richness, and a remarkable story that bears comparison with the great novels of the nineteenth century.'A beautifully written, highly accomplished first novel, his vigorous and poetic prose, flawless dialogue, rich and comical cast of characters and his exquisite observations of period detail make this a feast of a novel'MAIL ON SUNDAY. book. Bookseller Inventory # 467