Delbanco, Nicholas (Vol. 13)
Delbanco, Nicholas 1942–
Delbanco is a British-born American author of novels, poems, and short stories. (See also CLC, Vol. 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, rev. ed.)
Delbanco is one of those consistently highly acclaimed writers few readers have heard of, much less read. "Sherbrookes," his eighth novel, is also sure to be critically well received. A wonderful and strange book, written in lyrical yet spare prose, it contains insights few writers can claim…. Delbanco steers clear of grotesque or Gothic overtones; he keeps his story clean and taut. And although his characters and their lives are peculiar, if not unique, they are always credible, and their story is intriguing and compelling. (p. 64)
Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the November 6, 1978, issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1978 by Xerox Corporation), November 6, 1978.
[Nicholas Delbanco has depicted the] underside of family life in Possession (1977) and now Sherbrookes, the first two volumes of a trilogy about the waning days of a wealthy New England family….
Besides the hovering ghost of Judah, Sherbrookes has many other elements of gothic romance: an ancient mansion, a family curse, an unbreakable will, a mysterious pregnancy, and a moonlight suicide. Certainly, it seems to me that Sherbrookes does not operate like a realistic novel—by means of character, incident, or plot. Many of the characters are blanks; this is particularly true of Ian Sherbrooke, who seems at first almost like an empty cell awaiting the entry of a new genetic core, the spirit of his dead father. The book's movement is more in the fashion of a long poem, or a series of vibrant images held in rigid frames. There is a moment late in the book when Maggie, whose lusty ways in youth had earned her the title of "old Sherbrooke's bare-naked wife," watches unobserved as her son's lover walks naked across a field, and recognizes the arrival of her own replacement, "a brown-haired image of herself when young, the same straight back, thin hips, and long-legged gait." It is not a likely moment, or even a plausible one, but it is not an image I will soon forget.
Delbanco's prose is consciously poetic as well—alliterative, allusive, determinedly elegant. He is at his best when rendering...
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Delbanco's vision [in Sherbrookes] is fundamentally pessimistic in a time when this view has been criticized as being purely negative and unconstructive, threatening the future of fiction. Yet Delbanco deserves to be read precisely because in confronting his characters with the realities of death and isolation, he gives them compensating acts of love, will and endurance. (p. 41)
Tim Myers, in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1979 by The New Republic, Inc.), January 10, 1979.
(The entire section is 76 words.)