One of the finest American poets of the second half of the twentieth century, James Schuyler was at the same time a remarkable novelist. Alfred and Guinevere are two children who have been sent by their parents to spend the summer at their grandmother’s house in the country. There they puzzle over their parents’ absence and their relatives’ habits, play games and pranks, make friends and fall out with them, spat and make up. Schuyler has a pitch-perfect ear for the children’s voices, and the story, told entirely through snatches of dialogue and passages from Guinevere’s diary, is a tour de force of comic and poetic invention. The reader discovers that beneath the book’s apparently guileless surface lies a very sophisticated awareness of the complicated ways in which words work to define the often perilous boundaries between fantasy and reality, innocence and knowledge.
The novel…is quite an extraordinary piece of work, chronicling an uneasy period in the life of a brother and sister, seven—year—old Alfred and 11—year—old Guinevere.
— Michael Hofmann, London Review of Books
A delectable little book…A deft and funny creation of a high quality somewhere between the terror—haunted humor of Richard Hughes’ A High Wind in Jamaica and the placid, presumably unself—conscious amusements of Daisy Ashford’s The Young Visiters.
Schuyler, who died in 1991, was a noted poet, however this book is not written in “poetic prose”—he employs a simple style, without imagery or complexities. But every page displays a poet’s sensibility in the fresh and inventive ways Schuyler has his child narrators use and misuse language. Alfred and Guinevere is a small treasure, and its restoration to print is to be commended.
— Phillip Routh, Rain Taxi Review of Books
You can hear it now — for, in dialogue form, (except when Guinevere Gates is writing in her diary) here are the skirmishes, the misadventures and mishaps, and the troubles that she and her younger brother Alfred get into in their city home…
— Kirkus Reviews