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In the Half Light


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This debut novel by a celebrated Tasmanian poet follows the early life of James Molloy, a New South Wales boy who hears voices and sees colors inside his head. James is not initially aware of his difference from other children, though his behavior raises concerns in school. Not until he is in high school and meets Stephanie, who is also schizophrenic, does he learn about his illness and the role medication can play in managing its manifestations. After Stephanie moves to Ireland and his parents divorce, James's world changes. Unfortunately, so does the book, which loses its initial focus on schizophrenia and becomes more of a coming-of-age story. James moves to Sydney and falls in love with a girl named Tina. When she is killed in an accident, he proceeds to Ireland in the hopes of finding Stephanie. There, he befriends a group of musicians and falls in love with a troubled alcoholic fiddle player. Although the characters in the initial chapters are convincing, much of what unfolds in Ireland is less engaging, and too many loose ends make for a dissatisfying conclusion. Not required for most collections. David A. Beron, Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

From a young age, James has the habit of talking to himself. It is a natural inclination - to see visions and flashes of light - and his private utterances don't seem unusual to his family or peers. Yet James is left perplexed by his habits - perplexity borne from embarrassment rather than fear - and only when he meets the intense Stephanie does an explanation surface. Stephanie sees their connection beyond the kindred and recognises in James someone like herself - a sufferer of schizophrenia. She encourages him to seek help and nurtures his love for writing poetry. Once James' illness is recognised and he is prescribed medication, to which he is relatively loyal, In the Half Light proceeds to trace his burgeoning need for solace and clarity. He leaves school, takes on assorted jobs, travels throughout Australia, and finally flees to Ireland. He mourns the unexpected death of his lover, Tina, and finds comfort in the abused and heartbroken Sarah. Anthony Lawrence has an extensive background in poetry which is deftly unleashed throughout the novel - it is abundant with striking, original images and turns of phrase. The absence of quotation marks dulls the novel slightly, yet In the Half Light is mature and sophisticated, and demonstrates that mental illness need not evoke fear or stigma. Rather, its final message is that pain and confusion are universal, regardless of the ill that may ail you. A beautiful book which will have broad appeal and should be very successful. Jessica Raschke is a former bookseller and now works at D W Thorpe. C. 2000 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

Already published overseas to widespread acclaim, this novel by prolific Australian poet Lawrence is an intensive, haunting coming-of-age tale centering on a boy's struggle with schizophrenia in Sydney. Fragile James Molloy, the story's narrator, is a tortured teenager who immediately acknowledges that he was a very strange child, since in frequent out-of-body incidents he saw headlights and heard bells and voices that spoke words seemingly held together by strings and hooks of light. As James matures, his gift becomes a burden as the fainting spells (now accompanied by incoherent speech) begin to frighten those around him. His first foray into romance is with a shop girl named Stephanie, also diagnosed as schizophrenic, and while she befriends James and he grows to love her, she soon disappears. James's parents, struggling to hold together a failing marriage, take him to several doctors for psychoanalysis. When prescribed medication alleviates the headlights, James hitchhikes into the bush, where he meets Colin, a strange loner living in a mountain cabin. A homecoming of tears and tea and cake resumes James's mostly unhappy life, compounded by the separation of his parents and a new relationship that ends tragically. Inspired by a book about Ireland left for him by Stephanie, James sets off for the faraway island, where pub life and a new fiddler friend named Sarah give him fresh reason to live and some sense of normalcy. The author presents a helpless, mentally unstable protagonist with enough dark baggage to sink a battleship, but thanks to Lawrence's poetic prose and steady pacing, his narration shines, making this unusual story enlightening and thought provoking. (June) Forecast: As yet unknown in the U.S., Lawrence will likely be warmly received by reviewers, though it may take him a few more books to build up name recognition among readers. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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