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A MANY COATED MAN BY OWEN MARSHALL

Among what must now be the thousands of novels I have read so far in my lifetime this one stands out in a special way. It is not a question of my liking it or enjoying it so much as by my being intrigued by it as a story and by the remarkable quality of its prose. How does a novelist catch such an idea? Aldous Slaven is an orthodontist by profession who has a 10-acre lot in the countryside near Christchurch. While painting his roof one weekend, he falls when the ladder slips. He grabs the roof guttering with one hand and the power line with the other. The result is horrendous burns and a long stay in Burwood Hospital. He becomes aware in those pain--filled weeks of a great change in himself, apparently brought about by the electric shock.

When later on he is asked to give a talk to the civil defence organization on his experiences he overwhelms his audience of 23 people with his remarkable power of speaking and his insights into human needs and longings. The word spreads quickly and Aldous becomes a key-note speaker at a number of events. His oratory takes him to huge public rallies where the crowds build to hundreds of thousands. Govern-ments tremble. The anxiety among the establishment is appalling.

There are huge consequences, which are ultimately tragic. Owen Marshall's artistry with words is exceptional. Here is a sample: "It is cold and still when Slaven and Miles drive from Blenheim to Tuamarina on the Picton road. ...

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  • Seller location: Hibiscus Coast, Auckland, NZ

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