Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Alan Egerton Ball
The Bull is not Killed
by Sara Dearing
Stoddart, 206 pp.
Where can you sleep in an ancient fortress, view the work of the only woman painter of the Renaissance and make love in a nunnery? Portugal.
In this almost forgotten holiday destination of Europe (notwithstanding "Expo" in Lisbon), new novelist Sara Dearing has set her tale. It is as if Francoise Sagan (Bonjour Tristesse) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One hundred years of Solitude) had come together in a Algarve villa to write. Dearing deserves to be considered in such heady company. The ex-journalism student from Ryerson has penned an exceptional treat.
A 14-year-old naked Gypsy girl comes upon a 25-year-old naive man who longs to lose his virginity. But wait! Nothing is simple here. This author will tantalize and prevaricate until you are itching to read each next page.
Though often funny, The Bull is not Killed is not a comedy. Masturbation, murder and child rape occur, as does the fall of the heirs to the repressive Portuguese government of Salazar. Characters abound. An expatriate British lawyer, passed over for a knighthood, elicits revenge by owning a bar called "Sir Harry's." To this watering hole, an American would-be resident comes to seek protection from a swindle. Each person's life intertwines with the next as in any real village. Even vegetables play their part - Dearing has used a carrot in sensuous ways that would make even that root crop blush. An almost blushing Dearing graces this book's inside cover, but there is nothing for her to be shy about.
A noted authority on Portugal once told me the country "is burdened down by its past of explorers, conquerors, writers... [of castles, artists, nunneries...]. In the modern state, this wealth of yesterday produces a creative inertia, a void." Dearing is already filling this void.
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