The first English translation of a 1964 German novel by the talented author of Rice in Silver Bowls (English version,...

READ REVIEW

THE SYDNEY CIRCLE

The first English translation of a 1964 German novel by the talented author of Rice in Silver Bowls (English version, 1982)--who never quite seems to decide what sort of popular-fiction she's writing here. The promising opening pages are pure Rebecca, as Anne Carrington, now 35, tells how she was swept from her lonely London life seven years ago--into marriage with charismatic Australian architect Alex Rigby. . . who, alas, turns out to be an inveterate philanderer with a Danvers--like housekeeper and secrets in his past. (Did he push his older, rich first-wife off a cliff?) Very soon, however, the focus moves permanently away from Anne--with the narration circling around. Among those who tell their stories: Rigby's housekeeper, a Hungarian refugee who was, very briefly, one of Rigby's lovers; Elizabeth West, now a well-known Sydney novelist (serialized in the women's magazine owned by Rigby's imperious sister), but once Rigby's pregnant secretary/lover; Anne's masseuse Molly Fleet, a birthmark-scarred farmgirl living in a Sydney-slum boardinghouse, along with model/prostitute Candy (whom she envies and hates); an Italian waiter who is drawn to Molly but runs off, briefly, with Candy. Then Ekert-Rotholz switches to third-person narration, filling in further background on Candy's childish/sleazy life, on her many Sugar Daddies (Rigby among them); there are a few weddings and deaths--as well as Anne's decamping back to London after Alex's 50th-birthday party. And finally, in the last 100 pages, there's a halfhearted murder investigation: Candy is found murdered; Alex, who gets his own narration now (revealing that he didn't really kill wife #1), is arrested; Molly is befriended by the cop on the case; and there's an implausibly upbeat Anne/Alex fadeout. (""Seriously, Alex . . . without you it was even worse."") Throughout, Ekert-Rotholz writes smoothly and tastefully, with light irony and strong bits of character-appeal in the supporting cast. Life in early-1960s Sydney, especially the conflict between the old immigrants and the new, is neatly sketched. But Alex is a flat clichÉ of a central character, the plotting is ungainly--and this low-key tale of tangled passions and loneliness is only sporadically involving.

Pub Date: April 12, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Fromm International (560 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022)

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983