HERS by A. Alvarez


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Critic Alvarez' first novel -- undertaken fairly late in his literary career -- will attract more attention than perhaps it should or can afford. It is an airless, rather lugubrious, and occasionally ridiculous book (how else is one to react in this day and age to a young woman's sensuously abandoned afternoons with a lover when she keeps saying ""do not enter"") although sufficiently insistent to retain your uneasy curiosity. Julie, the young woman above, is the much younger wife of a professor, Charles, who awkwardly lumbers through the novel. Alvarez' central concern -- the residue of blood and racial lusts (""musky"" is a recurrent sexual qualifier) is deliberately traced for you not only back to Hitler's Germany where Julie's father was a victim but also to D.H. Lawrence. Charles, rampantly possessive, is described as the ""porpoise-snout"" while Julie for a time deceives the reader as she does him with her waif-like, fragile sensuality. Only much later, after she goes to a clinic in Germany where she becomes hooked on drugs as well as still another young man, does one realize just how sick she is. But for the most part it is a heavy, heavy scene -- overly explicit as well as claustral -- and Julie's Bovaryish wistfulness and restlessness, as initially projected, doesn't entice us for very long once the introductory speculation subsides.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1975
Publisher: Random House