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THE BEST BOOKS OF 1996 | FICTION

December 29, 1996|APRIL SMITH | April Smith is the author of "North of Montana" (Ballantine). She lives in Santa Monica

It was published in November 1995, but that's close enough to count in the last year. In any year "The Ghost Road" by Pat Barker (Dutton), the last of a trilogy, would be an important book if only because of its subject (the end of World War I), but for me as a novelist it is a revelation of how to express character through sexual encounters, the descriptions of a variety of physical acts written in astonishingly clear and supple prose that illuminates one individual, the cynical Lt. Billy Prior, as convincingly as the author's large and devastating vision of the war.

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