Testimonies: A Novel
In 1952, Delmore Schwartz, the most influential critic in postwar America, wrote of Patrick O'Brian's first novel, Testimonies: "a triumph...drawn forward by lyric eloquence and the story's fascination, [the reader] discovers in the end that he has encountered in a new way the sphinx and the riddle of existence itself". Schwartz's imagination was fired by this sinister tale of love and death set in Wales, a timeless story with echoes of Thomas Hardy and Mary Webb. Joseph Pugh, sick of Oxford and of teaching, decides to take some time off to live in a wild and beautiful Welsh farm valley that seems at the other end of the earth from the life he has known at the great university. There he falls physically ill, and is nursed back to health by Bronwen Vaughn, the wife of a neighboring farmer. Although Bronwen's husband Emyr is a successful farmer and a pillar of the community, there is a streak of sado-sexual violence in him that has ruined their marriage. Slowly, unwillingly, Bronwen and Pugh fall in love; and while that word is never spoken between them, their story is as passionate and as tragic as that of Vronsky and Anna Karenina. People, and Emyr's family in particular, begin to take note of the friendship between Bronwen and Pugh. The visit of a famous preacher punctures the boil of jealousies and suspicions in the small community, and the violence that follows comes almost as a relief. Readers who know O'Brian's story-telling from the Aubrey/Maturin tales will find in this book confirmation of the great range and depth of his gifts as a novelist.
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TESTIMONIESUser Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
A welcome reissue of O'Brian's moving and very fine first novel—a novel of "unassuming proportion and immaculate design" (Kirkus, August 1, 1952). This precursor to the author's Captain Jack Aubrey ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - booksinthebelfrey - LibraryThing
A landlocked departure for the author of the Aubrey/Maturin novels (which I've not read, although The Nutmeg of Consolation is among my favorite book titles!). Read full review