Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Gate of Angels

The Gate of Angels is a 1990 novel by Penelope Fitzgerald. I am always on the look-out for books by this author, who wrote 9 novels and several other works before her death at age 83 in 2000.

from the back of the book:
It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. In lecture halls and laboratories, the model of a universe governed by the Mind of God is at last giving way to something wholly rational, a universe governed by the Laws of Physics. To Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the College of St. Angelicus, this comes as a great comfort. Science, he is certain, will soon explain everything. Mystery will be routed by reason, and the demands of the soul will be seen for what they are -a distraction and an illusion.

Into Fred's orderly life comes Daisy, with a bang —literally. One moment the two are perfect strangers, fellow cyclists on a dark country road; the next, they are casualties of a freakish accident, occupants of the same warm bed. Fred has never been so close to a woman before, surely none so pretty, so plainspoken, and yet so -mysterious. Who is this Daisy Saunders? he wonders. Why have I met her? Is this a manifestation of Chaos, or is it a sign of another kind of Order?

As the smitten Fred pursues these questions, Penelope Fitzgerald suggests that scientists can still be mistaken -and that the soul must still be answered- even in this age of the atom.
The book begins:
How could the wind be so strong, so far inland, that cyclists coming into the town in the late afternoon looked more like sailors in peril? This was on the way into Cambridge, up Mill Road past the cemetery and the workhouse. On the open ground to the left the willow-trees had been blown, driven and cracked until their branches gave way and lay about the drenched grass, jerking convulsively and trailing cataracts of twigs. The cows had gone mad, tossing up the silvery weeping leaves which were suddenly, quite contrary to all their experience, everywhere within reach. Their horns were festooned with willow boughs. Not being able to see properly, they tripped and fell. Two or three of them were wallowing on their backs, idiotically, exhibiting vast pale bellies intended by nature to be always hidden. They were still munching. A scene of disorder, tree-tops on the earth, legs in the air, in a university city devoted to logic and reason.
How can you not love that writing? Plus her books have character development and plotting worth the reading. You can't do better than Fitzgerald!

I've read:

The Bookshop (1978)
Offshore (1979)
The Blue Flower (1995)

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