Body of Knowledge

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE accomplishes some important tenets of storytelling: The novel thoroughly engages the reader throughout, establishing characters memorable and empathetic, in a twisting story eliciting from the reader emotions ranging from fascination to disgust. Its narrator’s voice (and identity), hidden at first, emerge late in the novel from flat storytelling and leads through the mazes of the inner, troubled life of the outwardly respectable and monied Ransom household. This turbulent inner life of the “ice manufacture” empire is first ruled by the imperious, cruel, and widowed matriarch Arliss Ransom, then by her son William. The latter, goodly, upright, but emotionally vulnerable, inherits the estate, but has a liaison with Sophie, the lonely wife of Grant McAfee, his boyhood companion and son of his father’s business partner, who has become a vengeful, inconcupiscient, and vindictive man. This liaison results in a son whose existence triggers a generations long pursuit of vengeance by Grant McAfee. The latter’s obsession with William’s beautiful sister Sarah results in an unwanted pregnancy. Sarah’s departure from the Ransom home, to tragic consequence, is compounded by her rejection of McAfee’s marriage proposal, which abets his alienation from the Ransoms. William’s infant son’s survival requires a bizarre escape, concealment, abandonment, and a fake funeral to avoid the homicidally enraged Grant. The infant’s son’s adoption by Mavis...

(The entire section is 568 words.)