If, as I was, you were put off by the synopsis of The Chymical Wedding, don't be. Normally I never read a book with the word "obsessive" in the blurb, and for those of you who don't either, I'd like to set the record straight. Lindsay Clarke's The Chymical Wedding is one of the best novels I have ever read. It may contain obessions, dark sides, self-centred fathers and tormented ministers but the mood of the novel is completely at odds with this description. It sits light to life. It's capable of encompassing all the vagaries of human existence in the way that the best nineteenth century novels did (I'm thinking particularly of Middlemarch). It deals with some very dark topics, true, but it's wistful, rather than tormented, and in a way that is very English. Of course it tells a story -- two stories, which are woven together compellingly. The characters in the present have to try to unravel what happened to people in the same place a hundred years ago. (If you liked Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, or are a fan of Penelope Lively, then you'll like this bit.) The Chymical Wedding has some pertinent things to say about the difficulties of being a man (or indeed human) in the late twentieth century. It looks at some aspects of the occult without the credulousness of the New Age movement, and finds them to occupy a very necessary, and long-forgotten place in our culture. They have been neglected to the detriment of our collective mental health. But, best of all, it has an effect at a very deep level. It tugs at you, as life tugs at Alex Darken, makes you sit up and take notice. The whole book is suffused with a greenish, golden light, which will stay with you long after you put it down.