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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Mischief

by
Chris Wilson


general information | our review | links | about the author



Title: Mischief
Author: Chris Wilson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991
Length: 198 pages
Availability: Mischief - US
Mischief - UK
Mischief - Canada
  • Shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize

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Our Assessment:

A+ : marvelous satire, extremely well written

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Chris Wilson's brilliant satire is a great read from beginning to end. The narrator is Charlie Duckworth, the adopted son of a proper English couple. Charlie, however, is not your average English son. He is the last surviving member of a Brazilian tribe, the Xique Xique (or Zika Zika), found on an expedition by the zoologist Duckworth.
       Charlie is brought back to England and raised as the Duckworth's own. He is not entirely human in appearance, though because he matures at a rate about one-third slower than humans this is not immediately too obvious. He winds up six feet nine inches tall (when he slouches), his skin has a "translucent pearly sheen, betraying a map of veins beneath," his fingers and toes are long and thin, like pencils, his penis curled like a corkscrew. That and his character traits (guilelessness foremost among them) make it hard for him to fit in.
       Charlie's parents are oblivious to his strangeness. He has a tougher time with others, especially of his age. Sent off to boarding school (to a fine institution appropriately called Lovesgrave) Charlie finds himself at odds with human norms. Guileless, harmless, without a malicious bone in his body he is particularly ill-suited for a boarding school environment. He recognizes the difficulty:

I am misshapen, mystified and misplaced. Naturally, then, I incite and entice. And my sympathy bears a portion of the blame. I am prone to smile at those in trouble, which they tend to take amiss.
       There is little he can do to help himself, given his character, and he suffers for it. Finally finding out who (or rather what) he is he attempts to return to Brazil, but no one is interested in his tribe, extinct except for him. He goes to university (allowing Wilson room for an excellent send up of academic life, and student life in the 1960s) and slowly finds himself -- or rather the lessons needed to adapt to human ways.
       Ultimately Charlie gets a job at a mental hospital. He finds love in another imperfect creature, and loses it as she loses her imperfection. Finally, he becomes like all those around him, finally fitting in, a dark transformation Wilson just manages to keep this side of the bleak.
       Mischief is a remarkable book, exceptionally well written. The humour is sharp and poignant throughout, each sentence a thoughtful prick. Wilson is no moralizer here, though in fact it is one large moral tale. He has chosen the perfect narrator, given him just the right voice, and he holds the story on keel throughout.
       Highly recommended, to one and all.

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Links:

Other books by Chris Wilson under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Author:

       English author Chris Wilson was born November 18, 1949 in London. He received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. He has worked as a research psychologist and was lecturer at Goldsmiths' College, University of London. He is the author of a number of novels, including Baa, Fou, and Gallimauf's Gospel.

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