Sebastian Barnack, a handsome English schoolboy, goes to Italy for the summer, and there his …

A quiet mystical parable

4 stars

There's a fair amount of character development to begin with, some of it seems extraneous but without it, the pace of the book would flounder. Aldous remarked that this book was his most successful attempt of fusing story with ideology. At the heart of the story lies a very simple ethical dilemma which is framed between asceticism and hedonism. The young would-be poet, Sebastian is our protagonist caught between two family ideologies wedged in between two world wars. There are some shining moments where Aldous uses language and convention masterfully. The end I found was a bit too didactic but considering the length of the story, it worked in a kind of contemporary parable. Huxley's writing doesn't disappoint, but at times it strays from strengthening points to instead fill in genealogical gaps. There were times I was lost in the book, and other times I was lost elsewhere. There are some wonderful interjections by Sebastian's recently deceased Uncle Eustace, usually portrayed by a seance, but they allow another voice to enter the drama. I also found the strained sexual relationship between Sebastian and Mrs Thwale to be delightfully awkward and unsentimental. In fact, I found all the character interactions to be interesting and unlaboured. I think that's key to Aldous's writing, nothing feels forced, it's a natural diatribe unravelled with a simple plot.