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Paul Bailey’s most ambitious and highly praised novel to date, Kitty and Virgil is fiendishly funny in its presentation of a love affair between two very distinct people who are yet alike.Kitty Crozier first laid eyes on Virgil Florescu, a dissident poet who swam across the Danube to escape Ceausescu's Romania, in the hospital. She woke up after surgery to find a stranger sitting beside her bed gazing at her. He just smiled at her, stood and left the room. She next saw him in London’s Green Park picking up litter from the grass with a long spike. So begins the most important, most demanding, most exhilarating relationship of Kitty's life. As their love for each other deepens, their previous lives and very different families reveal themselves to be oddly connected.
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Paul Bailey's first novel, At the Jerusalem won three prizes, including the Somerset Maugham Award. He has also received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the George Orwell Memorial Prize. He has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His other books include the memoir An Immaculate Mistake (1990) and Sugar Cane (1993).From Publishers Weekly:
Bailey, whose first novel, At the Jerusalem, won several British awards and who has been twice shortlisted for the Booker since, is too little known here, as the arrival of the luminous book, his first in seven years, reminds us. It is at once a wistful and tender love story and a harrowing account of how people from two utterly different cultures and ways of looking at the world can find, then lose, each other. Kitty Crozier is a sweet 30-something Londoner who works as an indexer for publishers. Into her life one day comes Virgil Florescu, a refugee from the Romanian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu who had escaped his unhappy country by swimming the Danube at night, and later found work as an attendant in Green Park. Virgil is a superb creation, a poet who is at once funny and self-knowing, has a sly wit and an abiding gift for happiness. The problem in his life is the continuing existence of his father, who under the sway of bestial wartime nationalism has committed unspeakable acts-acts for which gentle Virgil feels he must atone. A cast of scintillating characters is mostly revealed in brilliant dialogue set pieces: Kitty's father, a vain, foppish man who had been a male model in America and has taken up with a mordantly witty butler in his dotage; Kitty's sister, Daisy, a terror in her youth, now unhappily waspish in middle age; even Virgil's landlady, a former opera singer succored by her unforgettable memories about life on the lower rungs of that art. Bailey's fertile invention and kindly humor spark them all to life, and the ultimate tribute to his book is that it manages to be unutterably sad without being in any way mawkish, and that it reminds one again and again of the sheer pleasures of a story told with empathy, elegance and an unfailing delight in the language. (Mar.)
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