Reviewed by Bob Williams
All Will Be Revealed
by Robert Anthony Siegel
2007, ISBN 1-59692-205-2, $24.00, 290 pages
Siegel teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. This is his second novel.
The title is a clever pun. Mrs. Verena Swann is a kind of medium whose original powers were quasi-genuine at best. She was able to communicate with her husband Theodore, an Artic explorer who died in the course of a polar expedition. Now, in collusion with Theodore’s brother Leopold, she has made a successful career as a fraud. The burden on her conscience and the overbearing presence of Leopold have made her erratic and disturbed. She fears discovery and yet wishes to end her imposture.
Augustus Auerbach also dwells in a world where literally all is revealed. He is a photographer who has made a fortune as a producer of pornographic stereopticon slides – we are in the nineteenth century. In much the same way that Verena is prisoner to her bully of a brother-in-law, Augustus is bound by his disability. At the death of his mother in a catastrophic accident, his legs ceased to grow. Now a man, he is confined to a wheelchair. His prison is within the confines of his mind. To protect himself against human feelings and to blind himself to his exclusion from life, he lives insulated in a richly furnished mansion surrounded by servants and staff.
When one of his favorite models becomes pregnant, he becomes involved in her life. Her baby dies and in her grief she becomes one of Verena’s clients. Augustus attends a séance with her, meets Verena and Leopold, and becomes entangled in their lives and in that of the sinister Dr. Mayhew.
The transformation of both Augustus and Verena forms the stuff of which All Will Be Revealed is made. Siegel is incredibly gifted in narrative ability and speed. His instinct for characterization is flawless and economical. He makes as much and as well of his minor as of his major characters. His performance is deft and sure.
As I read this novel, I saw it as ideal material for a movie, the kind of scary movie that Ingmar Bergman used to make in black and white. It has appeal and power. And despite its lack of pretension, it gives a good account of itself on every level. Recommended.
About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His writings, two books and a number of short articles on Joyce, can be accessed at: http://www.grand-teton.com/service/Persons_Places