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Pete E Flomack: A Lovely View of Every Year
Flomack’s novel starts off as a love affair. The unnamed hero has a love affair with a woman called Alice. The relationship seems to drift apart, as he wants to go to London, which he does. He there joins an archeological dig where the dig leader seems to be obsessed with finding something called a cheervestal, which is connected with the Arthurian legends. At the same time he starts another relationship with a fellow archeologist. We also get a story of Morgan Le Fay, King Arthur’s half-sister, in her quest, part of which may explain the cheervestal find at the dig. It is not clear if what they find is cheervestal but this idea seems to obsess the hero and he soon moves to Florence. There he is looking for cheervestal in old Italian manuscripts and again we get separate stories, including a vision of Dante accompanying the hero to Hell, where we meet current and recent politicians and other people, as well as an old manuscript which seems to be a variant of Machiavelli’s La Mandragola (The Mandrake). However, unlike Machiavelli’s known version, this is a novel and seems to consists of a series of stories within stories within stories, which never ends. During this episode he also has another relationship but, as with the previous one, still seems to be thinking of Alice.
He then moves to Paris, where cheervestal seems to have some political connotation and he makes a study of the Pétroleuses, linking it up to contemporary events. During the course of the novel we have been following a worsening global political situation, which involves the United States taking an aggressive stance against an unnamed enemy, presumably the Soviet Union, bringing the world closer to war. He goes to New York, still looking for cheervestal and it is while he is with his latest love that the war starts. He flees a now deserted New York and returns to a devastated England. It is not clear what has happened, though it is possible that a nuclear device has been detonated. People seem to have fled London. On his way back North to his house (his parents’ old house, though they are now dead), he meets Alice at a transit shelter. She tells him that she is married and is planning on returning to London to find her husband. He gives her his address and, some time later, when things have eased up somewhat, she does write to him. The question remains as to whether they will get back together.
Flomack’s story is far more complex than I have indicated. The relationship with the various women in the different cities, each one a native and each one linked to her city, the ever-present thoughts of Alice and to what extent she may be his true love, the search for cheervestal, whose meaning changes in every section, the side stories which seem to illuminate the main story to some degree and the worsening political situation are all carefully linked and leave us wondering how it will turn out. It is sad that this novel has now completely disappeared and is unobtainable.
First published in 1979 by January Press