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While without the macabre symbolism of her last book- A Severed Head, and perhaps a little more accessible, this new novel is still very much generis and is an expertly composed and controlled, extremely stylized, inbred comedy with tragic tones. The scene as Hugh buries his wife after her long illness; in spite of a long and amiable marriage, he finds himself looking forward to his freedom and his possession of her . He also looks forward to renewing his relationship with Emma Sands, his mistress in younger years, to whom his charming, cruel son seems to have some current attachment. This proves to be the young girl Lindsay, her companion, whom she keeps like a ""vestal virgin"", and Emma, in her late years, is a deadly dea ex machina. Hugh's one way of reaching Emma seems to be by liberating Lindsay through Randall; in order to do so he sells the Tintoretto and makes possible their flight to Italy. Randall's abandoned wife looks for possible comfort elsewhere; this is destroyed by her daughter, Miranda, as ruthless as her father. It is again an elaborate emotional interchange where love is a perverse, vitiating, exhausting where the innocent (Hugh, Randall's wife- Ann, her lover, and , a young boy) are the easy victims of the cunning and the predatory (Randall, Emma, and the Miranda). The wit is as wicked as ever, the prose as dazzling, the ambience as .

Publisher: Viking