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Books: Life and Death Matter

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THE KEY OF LIFE—Francis Brett Young—Knopf ($2.50). Versatile author of psychic Cold Harbour, Conradian Sea Horses, two volume saga Love Is Enough, Dr. (medical) Young now combines a poetic setting in Shropshire with the vivid glitter of Egypt. Ruth Morgan leaves her English countryside to marry an Egyptologist, whose heart, but for an April with her in Shropshire, is buried with tattooed mummies in the tombs of Thebes. Bezuidenhout’s work is also in Thebes, but his anthropological research is for the sake of his profession as doctor to the living, and not in adoration of dead antiquity.

Ruth recognizes this conflict of interests, instinctively takes sides with Bezuidenhout against antiquity, though she struggles against such disloyalty to her betrothed. Surrounded by easy-going excavators who muse upon the past, Ruth makes her choice between loyalty to her desiccated ascetic Egyptologist, and love for virile Bezuidenhout—so very much alive in the omnipresence of death. The act that her choice is disappointing to the reader speaks well for Author Young’s sympathetic portrayal.

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