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Morning Star by Simon Raven
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Morning Star (1984)

by Simon Raven

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The novel sequence The first-born of Egypt, of which this is the first, could perhaps have been called "Alms for oblivion: The next generation" — Raven takes up more or less where he left off with the surviving characters from his first novel sequence, together with their children and a few new characters introduced in the two intervening novels, The roses of Picardy and September Castle.

It isn't really essential to have read the previous books, as Raven opens this book by bringing together all the main characters for the christening in Cambridge of Lord Canteloupe's infant son. This gives him the opportunity to remind us who they all are, and to introduce those whom we haven't met before: mostly the children. And it soon becomes clear that it is the children who are at the centre of this story (and indeed the whole novel sequence, as the title implies). Gregory Stern's 12-year-old son, Marius, believes he has been put under some kind of spell by his sister and her friend Tessa. He has to be removed from school after injuring another boy in a fit of temper, and is sent off to stay with Ptolemaeus Tunne, who has somewhat implausibly shifted his field of research from medieval manuscripts to cognitive science. Meanwhile, Peter Morrison's son Jeremy, who is an undergraduate at Lancaster [King's], is conducting separate affairs with both of Donald Salinger's twin daughters, and is trying to seduce Fielding Gray. Marius is in turn trying to seduce Jeremy...

Raven makes life difficult for himself by introducing all his main characters at the beginning of this book and starting off many different narrative threads all at the same time. This clearly establishes this book as the starting point of a new sequence, but forces a lot of fast cutting between different sets of characters (Raven's experience as a TV scriptwriter clearly gave him the confidence to do this), which must be confusing if you're still trying to remember who everyone is.

I notice that other users have tagged this book "Pedophilia" and "non-abusive pedophile": I don't think either of these is accurate in this case. Even though Raven was famously someone who was prepared to confront every sexual taboo, and this story deals with adolescent sexuality, there is no question of sexual relations between adults and children. Marius is clearly strongly attracted to Jeremy, but in this book at least, Jeremy makes it clear that he is not interested.

The reprint publishers House of Stratus reissued most of Raven's books in paperback in 2001. These are very nice-looking editions, but are plagued by annoying OCR errors every few pages: they obviously prepared the text by scanning an earlier edition. One hopes that these errors, rather than lack of interest in Raven's work, is the reason they have been allowed to go out of print again. ( )
2 vote thorold | Aug 4, 2008 |
12-year-old Marius Stern gets suspended from his boarding school for hitting another boy. Two homosexual friends, Ptolemaeos Tunne and Jeremy Fielding, become infatuated with Marius and probe his odd behaviour. ( )
  TonySandel | Sep 15, 2007 |
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