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North (Macmillan New Writing) by Brian…
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North (Macmillan New Writing)

by Brian Martin

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North was published in 2006 by MacMillan’s imprint MacMillan New Writing. Its author, Brian Martin was already 68 years old when this book came out as his literary debut, although Mr. Martin has written and edited academic books, and regularly contributed to the literary press. As a former teacher in Oxford, it is almost inevitable that this novel reminds the reader of the novels by Iris Murdoch, not just in its setting, but also in the scope of its sexual freedom, plot and characterization. However, North is not an imitation, and can very well stand on its own, as another thing which it shares is that it is very well-written, creating the feel of a novel by Henry James. It was very enjoyable to read.

The plot has some funny twists, but is fairly straight forward. Set at a high school, in the last term before graduation, the novel describes the lives of various teaching staff, especially in relation to the uncannily handsome, and charming student, called North. This young man, seventeen, of American extraction and coming from an apparently very affluent, American aristocratic family, is described as having a very refined taste and enchanting personality. At the beginning of the story, his relation to the narrator as a mentor is already well-established. The narrator is clearly charmed by North, but their relation throughout the book remains Platonic. Even as a teacher-student, their relation seems much closer, and much more personal, hinting at a much deeper affiliation. North needs his mentor to share his ideas and feelings, and feels completely relaxed with him, while in a sense the narrator also needs North’s company.

The omniscient narrator cannot avoid being pushed in the role of a voyeur, and is thus aware of all personal relationships North spins. These relations are seemingly purely for his own sexual enjoyment, not spiritual, and aimed at confusing or upsetting people. Monty Ross, the Head of Physics has an extramarital affair with Bernie, one of the young female teachers and Head of the History Department. North seduces both Bernie and Monty, and maintains separate, sexual affairs with them, bringing out Monty’s homosexual or bisexual tendency. He also concocts and brings about the homosexual feelings of the Headmaster, Aitken, and machinates the scandal in which Monty is caught kissing Aitken, which leads to the suspension of both, at the end of the story.

From the earliest parts of the book, the reader is given the feeling that North is a bit of a devil. Always dressed in black clothes, wearing the most expensive brands of clothes, apparel and fragrances, from the start, the narrator warns the reader of impending danger, describing North as a manifestation of evil, perhaps best characterized as Milton’s Satan.

The most intriguing character in the novel, of course, remains the narrator himself. He has no name. His experience and theological training warn him of North and be alert, but this does not fully explain or make their mutual attraction clear. This is saved for the last act, the climactic end. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Feb 2, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0230000002, Hardcover)

This is a literary thriller, a psychological drama about good and evil that explores confused sexuality and describes the intricate game of love in the contemporary world. It exposes the lives of six people who attend a school in Oxford either as student or teacher. The narrator of the story, a middle-aged man of means, is almost as enigmatic as his subject, North, a strange, elegant, charismatic Anglo-American youth. The handsome, precocious North begins a three-way relationship between himself, a beautiful 27 year-old woman teacher, and a young married, but bisexual, head of Physics who is good-looking, athletic, and evangelically Christian. As the novel proceeds in various settings, Oxford, London, Ravello, Washington DC, a confidential intimacy evolves between the narrator and North and the suspense mounts as North reveals his plans for systematic seduction. The players in the game of love become entangled in sexual anarchy that accelerates the novel towards its decisive, cataclysmic climax. At the end there is an abiding mystery and an acute sense of potent evil. The reader is left wondering if there have been certain moral imperatives that have made the narrator tell less than the whole truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:14 -0400)

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"A handsome, precocious student at an Oxford school begins a three-way relationship between himself, a beautiful 27 year-old woman teacher, and the young, married, but bisexual Head of Physics. The players in the game of love, observed by the apparently amoral narrator, become entangled in sexual anarchy that accelerates the novel towards its decisive, cataclysmic climax."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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