I really love John Fowles writing. From the moment I open one of his books, I am transported willingly to wherever the author wants to take me. For some reason, I waited a really long time to read this book. It’s probably the title, which brings images of the white insect feeding off of rotten meat. But Fowles tells his readers that his use of the term is from the old and obsolete “whim or quirk.”
So the story isn’t grotesque, it begins with a small party on horseback making it’s way through the English countryside in the 1736. It becomes a mystery that evolves into a hearing because one of their members ends up dead, hanging from a tree.
And Fowles had me in his grips, even when the story became really, really strange. It bordered on fantasy or hysteria, and I kept waiting for Fowles to bring me back down to earth, but he never did. He left me hanging and then revealed in the epilogue that the story was loosely based on the birth of Ann Lee, an early leader of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers.
Fowles does a wonderful job of taking the reader by the hand through the world of science and mystery, faith and fiction. And as wonderful as it is, it is also frustrating because I wanted something solid, something to be explained to me that I could take as reality. But I guess that is the point of this novel, as is the point of faith and religion.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1985