Books: At the Edge of Life

WHIPPLE'S CASTLE by Thomas Williams. 536 pages. Random House. $6.95.

No single sighting gives a clear view of this awkwardly assembled bulk of a book. It is fairly evenly divided between passages that are totally inert and others so good that the eyes sting and the mind refuses to be eased.

The author put huge difficulties in the way of his intention, which is simply to tell about the family of Harvey Whipple, a New Hampshire businessman, from the beginning of World War II through the first postwar years. He hit upon the unfortunate scheme of writing what seem to be fragments of...

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