FICTION

The Warlow Experiment

Knopf. Aug. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9780385545334. $26.95; ;. F
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Herbert Powyss is a Welsh gentleman of means living at the close of the 18th century. His fortune allows him to pursue studies in botany, and he has made minor contributions in this field. However, he longs to leave his mark on history by conducting an experiment in human behavior whose results can be presented to the Royal Society of London. He wants to isolate a human subject from all human contact for seven years, promising a lifelong stipend at the end of the experiment. John Warlow, uneducated and almost unlettered, applies for the job. While the project proceeds for more than three years, the results are less than satisfactory. Meanwhile, the outside world also provides challenges for Powyss. Circumstances cause the experiment to be terminated abruptly, which leads to tragedy for everyone involved.
VERDICT Nathan (The Flight of Sarah Battle), who bases this story on a real event reported in 1797, supplies the details to make her characters come alive, capturing the difficulties in human relationships (or lack thereof) and the tragic outcomes that can arise from unforeseen circumstances. All general readers will enjoy

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