‘The only writer in English who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of Tolstoy or James’, according to John Gardner. Whether you agree or not, it’s hard to think of a more prodigiously talented, or more thought-provoking, contemporary fiction writer in English than John Fowles. Having just re-read (for the third time?) his collection of novellas, The Ebony Tower, and having found it masterful yet again, I thought I might say something about the title novella, which for me is the standout piece, and one of Fowles’ best works.
The action takes place in Brittany—a Celtic land, significantly in view of the fact that the novellas are all, in Fowles’ view, variations on a Celtic theme. A young, successful abstract painter, David Williams, goes to interview a much older, even more successful one, in his manor house, where he lives with two ‘nymphs’, young Englishwomen in their twenties, both artists of a kind.