The Beauty of The World

by Stacey Newman
209 pages,
ISBN: 097385653X

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First Novels
by Nancy Wigston

The Beauty of The World by Stacey Newman (Wingate Press, 209 pages, $21.95 paper, ISBN: 097385653X) Stacey Newman's novel plunges us into war-torn Perda, a fictional European country. Sophie, a young journalist whose grandparents lived in the country in its peaceful days, sees her colleague shot dead beside her. After an explosion throws her to the ground, a stranger whisks her out of the urban war zone, taking her on a long escape through forest and village, as the city burns behind them. Emil, the stranger, is forceful but essentially good¨as bullets fly around their truck he reminds her to do up her seat belt. Their journey is interposed by scenes of recent political turmoil in which Emil's lover has played a major role, along with her politically powerful and treacherous mother, "the goddess of war." There are elements of Greek tragedy in this family saga; a young woman has tried to save her country, while her mother's betrayal has thrown it into chaos.
Meanwhile, bodies and morals suffer incessant shocks in a grim foreign landscape fraught with danger. Newman's style tends to the spare and awkward ("Dread pervades her thoughts"). Irritating at first, this soon becomes just another feature of the landscape. This book describes a nation in crisis, where life and death concerns are paramount and subtleties of character are almost absent. Newman flashes back and forth¨from the escaping duo, to the recent past, and the internment camp where the mother and daughter activists are being held in unspeakable conditions. Everyone is imprisoned, but for some prison is worse than for others. Yet love also plays an important role, as Emil obsesses about the fate of the woman he left behind. This is a curious book: blunt and wired with energy.

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