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October 13, 1985|DOUGLAS SUN

THE ROSE TREE by John Broderick (Marion Boyars: $14.95). Irish novelist John Broderick has produced an absorbing work about violence and its corrosive power over the human psyche. Its main characters are Irish businessman Pat Carron and his traumatized daughter May, who come to the West of England after a family tragedy only to find that tragedy permanently fixed in May's recurring nightmares and masochistic impulses. Since it is a psychological novel that relies heavily on hidden knowledge, Broderick can tell us little about his characters at first, with the result that the opening chapters seem rather aimless. But the story becomes taut and compelling as it picks up speed and the reader sees previously suppressed conflicts open like raw sores. The final chapter is one of those revelatory denouements in which a long conversation between two characters exposes a chunk of crucial information, but it seems far less contrived than most uses of this device. The novel's only real problem is a lack of distinctive dialogue; with one or two minor exceptions, what the characters say usually doesn't help bring them alive. Broderick's prose is undistinguished, but to his credit, he uses this stylistic blandness as a kind of understatement, a way of heightening the horrors that the story ultimately reveals.

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