The Alteration by Kingsley Amis
New York : Viking press, 1977. First American Edition. Hardcover. 210 pages ; 21 cm. $7.95 dust jacket. Very good copy; no underlines or markings within the pages. Satisfaction guaranteed!
The year is 1976, and Stephen Ill, King of England, has lately died. Mozart's Second Requiem (K. 878) is being sung at the Cathedral Basilica of St. George at Coverley (pronounced Cowley) for the laying-to-rest of the monarch. Above choir and orchestra soars the faultless boy soprano voice of Hubert Anvil. It is a once-in-a-century talent. Although he cannot yet know it, today's performance before a brilliant international congregation—including two emissaries of the Holy Office—will alter his destiny but save his voice if certain of his elders have their way.
In the world-as-we-know-it the last such castrato died in 1922, but this is another world altogether, spared the Reformation back in the sixteenth century when Martin Luther became Pope. As Hubert is made aware of what may be in store for him, some unsuspected allies, including his father's not-so-celibate chaplain and the New Englander ambassador spring up. Around him swirls a whirlpool of piety, menace, terror, and passion—a vortex from which no reader can or will escape until the final resolution.
In creating this world-that-might have-been, Kingsley Amis evinces powers of satire, imagination, and sheer storytelling impetus that will surprise even his most ardent admirers and delight and move all fans, old and new.
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