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'Salamander' Thomas Wharton

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This novel set in the 18th century, involves writing, reading, books and how books are made and what they mean from a reader's point of view.


The basic premise of the novel is that Count Ostrov commissions the printer Nicholas Flood to produce an infinite book. Soon after appearing at the Counts fantastical castle Flood starts work , but also falls in love with Irena the count's daughter. The count discovers this and has Flood imprisoned and Irena dismissed. The sinister Abbe de Saint Foix from Quebec is involved throughout the novel, and makes several mysterious appearances. Pica the daughter of Irena and Flood frees Flood and they set off on a journey to find the materials for the book and to find Irena. After many adventures they end up back in London. Pica locates Irena and Flood and Irena are briefly united before Flood dies.


The summary I've given is necessarily brief and incomplete ( otherwise I'd have to write the book out:))


The prose is fluid and beguiling . I found myself re-reading passages so I could wallow in the writing. His use of literary devices is calculated and effective. Their are numerous literary, historical and cultural references. Many of the cultural references are Islamic, but I noted Kabbalah, Buddhist and Chinese references. I'm certain I haven't spotted all the references, so a reread is in order. His foreshadowing is sly in places, a chance remark becomes significant later in the novel. I felt there was a 'hidden' thread which you caught glimpses of. Also various riddles/enigmas are embedded in the novel, some of which I need to look at again.


If you love books, reading and the mystique surrounding books then this comes highly recommended.

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As you make this sound even more awesome than I originally gave it credit for (which was quite a bit), getting rid of my unsatisfactory copy to hunt for one in better shape seems to have been well-advised :D!

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