Picks and Pans Review: Dodo

updated 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Tony Weeks-Pearson

What might the last days of the famous extinct bird, which disappeared around 1680, have been like? The author imagines a tropical island where drunken sailors slaughter the ungainly dodos. Later the island is populated with French colonials, slaves from Africa and cheap labor imported from India to work the sugarcane fields. A schoolteacher arrives. He is fascinated by the island's plant-and-bird life. By then the dodo is a dim legend that the children act out in ritual play. At the island's heart is a deep forest, and there live runaway children and a last surviving dodo. Charles Darwin visits the island. When violence erupts, it is irrational. Weeks-Pearson, a British educational adviser, has written a strikingly original first novel. The scenes sometimes seem clouded by a mysterious veil; then glimmers of light come through. With the poetic obscurity, however, come moments of sharp pain—a sword through a man's hand is horrifyingly described. The revenge at the climax seems as random as the crime that inspired it. Such powerfully imagined novels as this are not quite as extinct as the dodo, but they are exceedingly rare. (Viking, $14.95)

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