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One also admires Mr. Gaynor’s invention of a scene in which recently widowed Queen Victoria grants an audience to her fellow sufferer Dorothea (following Alfred’s lavish funeral at Westminster Abbey — to which Dodo was not invited), and another in which Dodo meets Wilhemina Ricketts, the young actress (standing in for history’s Ellen Terry) for whom Alfred had forsaken her. Only an unconvincingly modern feminist ending mars the vivid patchwork Mr. Gaynor has stitched together. Still, there is perhaps unintended irony in this immensely likable novel’s cruelest touch: despite its justifiable emphasis on a truly wronged woman, her oppressor is — surely unavoidably — portrayed as so charming and full of life and energy that he dominates every page.

Finally (surely not finally, one realizes), there is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s “The Angel’s Game,” a serpentine, not to say loopy prequel and companion to its Spanish author’s 2001 international success, “The Shadow of the Wind.” This literally labyrinthine tale of the intersection of life with literature is so crammed with Gothic atmospherics, plots within plots and cloyingly coy literary allusions that one hesitates to recommend it to any reader who lacks unlimited time to plumb its depths. Yet there is a Faustian bargain struck, and Mr. Zafon’s anti-heroic protagonist, an ailing fiction writer who stumbles into an occluded mystery, does remind us of Dickens‘ Pip, and his misadventures of course awaken loud echoes of the plot of “Great Expectations” — Oh, what the heck. How can yet Another Dickens Novel be a bad thing? The Victorian colossus may indeed have merited the self-glorifying title The Inimitable. Still, everybody and his chambermaid and footman keeps on imitating him. May the perverse trend continue.

Bruce Allen is a freelance reviewer situated in Kittery, Maine.