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Kathryn Davis

The Walking Tour

Kathryn Davis The Walking Tour
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It is the turn of this century. Two couples -- businessman Bobby Rose and his artist wife Carole Ridingham, his partner Coleman Snow and Snow's wife Ruth Farr -- have gone on a walking tour in Wales, during which a fatal accident occurs. The question of what happened preoccupies not only an ensuing negligence trial but also the narrator, Bobby and Carole's daughter. Susan lives alone in her parents' house near the coast of Maine, addressing us from a future in which property no longer shapes destiny, a position providing unusual perspective on the way we live now. Assisted by court transcripts, a notebook computer containing Ruth Farr's journal, as well as by the menacing young vagrant who's taken to camping on her doorstep, Susan ultimately lays open the moral predicament at the heart of the book: we are culpable beings, even though we live in a world of imperfect knowledge. By turns dazzling and dark, as dangerous and entrancing as the Welsh landscape it describes, The Walking Tour is part mystery story, part shrewd visionary meditation on the uneasy marriage of art and commerce.

""Davis seems equal parts Janet Austen and Isak Dinesen . . . A complex, tightly packed, ambitious work, by one of the most thoroughly original (and valuable) of contemporary writers."" Kirkus Reviews

""Kathryn Davis hints at the complexity of her entrancing new novel in koan-like opening lines that indicate that the narrator has embarked on a journey into the past. As Susan tries to reconstruct the tragic events of her ""famous mother's infamous summer in Wales,"" she rereads the postcards she received and reconsiders all she was told during that summer of her 13th year and, in doing so, chronicles her present life and the harsh existence radically altered by the events that followed her mother and father's fateful and fatal trip.<BR> By turns wry and poetic, Susan brings her parents and their traveling companions indelibly to life… Susan re-creates the past and describes her present in scintillating and richly metaphorical detail. Every sentence uncoils with supple grace.... Beguiling and bracing, Davis' original metamorphosing tale is infused with a condemnation of technology and the abuse of nature. In Davis' provocative vision of a post-apocalyptic culture, literacy is rare but image-making and storytelling are intrinsic to survival."" - Donna Seaman The Los Angeles Times

""Kathryn Davis never fails to astonish with her fiction, and in THE WALKING TOUR she is at her most ingenious. She leads us deep into the great mysteries of human ambition, love, and restlessness. It's a dazzling journey."" -- Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance and other novels

""I cannot say how much I admire Kathryn Davis and her latest triumph, THE WALKING TOUR. The book is so beautifully written it takes one's breath away - brilliant in every way, and often delightfully funny."" -- Sigrid Nunez, author of Mitz and A Feather on the Breath of God

""I very much enjoyed THE WALKING TOUR. Kahryn Davis is brilliant."" -- Penelope Fitzgerald

""THE WALKING TOUR is a masterfully wrought mosaic, a fine misture of social/moral commentary and strange otherworldliness."" -- Ella Leffland

""Davis' stunning physical descriptions place her characters in the context of an enduring harsh nature--against a spine of rock, a falling sky. A kind of tenderness emerges in which the flawed lives of the characters seem entirely understandable, forgivable against a landscape that, in the current timeframe of the novel, is tilting toward the untenable. While basic information is doled out at a rather leisurely pace, Davis' gorgeous writing makes the journey a pleasure."" The Chicago Tribune

Davis's fourth and thoroughly engaging novel (after Hell) is a witty blend of genres: mystery, courtroom drama, futuristic tale and a reworking of Welsh myth. In some unspecified year in the 21st century, when ideologies have transformed to the point where ""the whole idea of edge... [has]... become a thing of the past,"" Susan R. Rose hides away on Maine's coast, in what was once her family home, reconstructing the events that led to her mother's disappearance and certain death during a walking tour through Wales, when Susan was 13. Equipped with letters and cards sent by her mother, a famous painter; a stack of unlabeled photos; a transcript from a wrongful death suit; and a laptop notebook her mother's oldest friend (and deepest rival) kept, Susan pieces together the spats, jealousies and sudden couplings of the tourists on a pilgrimage. Although she is at first alone, Susan's privacy is invaded by Monkey, a boy encamped nearby. He's a Strag, a member of a futuristic culture that is propertyless and thus lawless, ""a triumph of the virtual."" As in any good mystery, several possible suspects emerge with a variety of reasons to have killed Carole Ridingham Rose (even Monkey could hold a clue), yet Davis manages to keep this plot line alive while ingeniously weaving her imaginative settings. The playfulness of Davis's writing is irresistible. Laced with fairy tales, neologisms and poems, her prose is clever, sometimes dazzling, skating lightly over complex ideas that otherwise might bog down the narrative. Looking at an Andy Warhol painting, Susan's father says to her mother, ""I like it. It's like money; it skips the middle step."" One insistent theme surfacing in this highly original novel is the relationships between property and morality, between time and space. Davis's take on these subjects is intellectually rigorous, while the suspense remains satisfyingly taut. Author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly, Starred

""Davis exquisitely captures a daughter's acute awareness of the human world she has lost and the nature, her mother brilliantly portrayed, that alerts us to truths of our own unreason."" The Philadelphia Inquirer

""The influence of the late Dame Iris should be noted and applauded. But ""The Walking Tour"" is by Kathryn Davis, whose three previous books-""Labrador,"" ""The Giirl Who Trod on a Loaf"" and ""Hell""-not only defy eassy description,, but tennd tto eelicit inadequate book-shat cliches like ""hypnotic"" and ""haunting"" to convey their astonishing effects. Davis' approach to novel-writing is so original, and the results so magical, that trying to review her fiction in a thousand word on a tight deadline feels as doomed as trying to review one of Blake's prophetic books or Yeat's ""A Vision,"" or one of your own dreams. Like a dream, and like the works of Anglo-Celtic mysticism it pointedly evokes, ""The Walking Tour"" presents a lovely, placid surface mined with intimations of dark meanings encrypted just below it. Like all of Davis's work, its narrative is intoxicatingly allusive-Wordsworth's ""Tintern Abbey,"" James' ""Portrait of a Lady,"" the Old Welsh epic poem ""The Mabinogion,"" Childe ballads and old children's books feature prominently, along with the lore of beekeeping, fairy cuisine and artificial intelligence. It's also mind-bendingly elusive, casting the reader into a vertiginous limbo between past, present and future. To call ""The Walking Tour"" a mystery story is both a statement of the obvious and a wild understatement. I don't think I've ever encountered a book that withheld so much crucial information and produced such a sense of satisfaction, even fulfillment, at the end."" - A.O. Scott Newsday

""Kathryn Davis's THE WALKING TOUR ... crackles with old-fashioned mystery ..."" Elle

""When reading Kathryn Davis's novel THE WALKING TOUR, I was reminded of a toy puppet theater I saw recently and wanted desperately to buy. The backdrop was a forest with luminous trees and a bright starry sky, The figures were lovely flat pieces of tin painted to look exactly the same on both sides. Now, here's the genius of the thing: Several wire poles had magnets attached to the ends

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