Books: History Seen Small

THE COIN OF CARTHAGE by Bryher. 240 pages. Harcourt, Brace & World. $4.50.

Historical novelists who use lowly characters to eyewitness the past customarily keep them close to the great captains—as, say, a cabin boy on the Santa Maria or a drummer dragged along in the wake of Napoleon's march to Moscow. But the wispy, aging English heiress who calls herself Bryher and now lives permanently in Switzerland writes historical fiction in her own strange way. Her latest book covers some 40 years of the Punic wars. Characteristically, her two major characters never take part in, or talk about, any of the...

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