Books: In Brief

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The Independent Culture
A Short History of a Small Place by

T R Pearson, Secker pounds 9.99. A circumstantial account, narrated by the 13-year-old Louis Benfield Jnr, of the goings-on in Neely, North Carolina, leading up to the day the elegant Miss Pettigrew threw herself from the water-tower into a rose bush. Richly peopled and exuberantly inventive, this is a very entertaining novel, but its adolescent voice is too disingenuous by half, and the small-town chauvinism, even racism, which lurk in the pages are not dispelled as the narrative develops. This apparently amiable book leaves an odd taste.