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Icarus in Flight Paperback – 16 Jun 2008
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The novel quickly advances to 1847 where at 18 James has inherited his family's estate and now has the responsibility to financially care for his mother and two sisters. He continues his friendship with Daniel who occasionally visits James's home and a romance blossoms. Within a few years the relationship is consummated and James makes plans to take care of Daniel, provide a home for them both, and to sponsor Daniel's budding career as a writer. But someone gets to Daniel and convinces him that if the relationship continues on he would be spoiling James's good name. So Daniel (like Icarus in Greek Mythology) flees to Norwich with the hope of making good on his own. James is crushed and sinks into despair, eventually leaving England for Venice where he takes up a life of empty sexual encounters. I won't disclose how the story ends except to say that you won't be disappointed.
Both boys are richly-drawn, likeable characters. James, due to his being born into wealth and inheritance, is understandably a bit of a snob from time to time, and Daniel is so humble and demure that you just want to scoop him up and cuddle him. The fact that he idolizes James makes him particularly vulnerable.
What makes this novel so impressive is its tone. Thorne has wonderfully captured polite, Victorian society with English manners and mores, the cadences of proper dialog, and prudent behavior all coming together in grand style. I definitely felt the influences of Forster (and dare I say, Austen?) The female characters are as well-drawn as the male characters. In a time of Britain's history where women were not allowed to own property, Thorne demonstrates how the mother and daughters dealt with having their livelihood left in the hands of a young son, using carefully crafted language to manipulate him into serving the interests of propagating the family.
As a parlor drama, it is to be expected that ICARUS IN FLIGHT is a bit light on plot. The real strength of the writing is Thorne's dialog, which just sparkles with wit and intelligence and is so polished and authentic to the British period that it would be comfortable on the lips of actors in a production on the BBC.
One last point I'd like to make is that Icarus in Flight is being marketed as a young adult novel. That's fine, in that there is nothing inappropriate for younger readers, but if you are thinking of skipping it because you are not inclined to read YA fiction, you'd be making a mistake. The novel is completely geared toward adult readers, and there is no "dumbing down" to make it more palatable to youngsters. The publisher states it is for 16 and up and I would say that's about right because the language is probably too sophisticated for younger teens.
Mark R. Probst