Marked by lush, erotic imagery and a subtle, complex handling of motifs, this slim and powerful first novel from Australia is a carefully controlled psychological study set in the turbulent times of Chiang Kai-shek's China. Kenneth Ayres is a Scottish physician living in Shanghai in the late 1920s. A fleshy, solitary widower who prefers young, small prostitutes, Ayres spent a year in Vienna studying under Freud and now treats the nervous disorders of English-speaking expatriates in China. Julia Paradise, a missionary with her husband Willy, is a morphine addict and a hysteric whose symptoms include delusions and terrors brought on by threats of imagined animals. In weekly sessions with Ayres, Julia gradually reveals an intriguing and appalling background. Raised in Australia in the country by her father, a botanist who forced her into a lengthy incestuous relationship, she was mute for many years until she escaped from her father during a flood and literally was netted by Willy. Julia seems to benefit from the talking cure soon she is talking in bed with Ayresand the doctor is invited to a celebration at the mission. But the mission school is burned, Willy is seized by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationals, and Ayres is told that Julia's history is fabrication. What is fantasy, what is reality are questions that will reshape Ayres's life and which are likely to linger in readers' thoughts.
This hardback was published by St. Edmondsbury Press in the U.K. It is in near new condition. The dust jacket has light shelf wear.