A touching but self-indulgent first novel from Hall (Stealing from a Deep Place, a travel book, p. 949) about a Harvard...



A touching but self-indulgent first novel from Hall (Stealing from a Deep Place, a travel book, p. 949) about a Harvard graduate who, AIDS-positive, comes of age while living in Vienna. Eric, the troubled son of a late scholar obsessed with the Nazis, gets a post-graduate Harvard fellowship to research the Anschluss--but Eric himself is no scholar, and when he meets the hot-blooded Jutta, it's love (or sex) at first sight. He quickly moves in with her and her mulatto son Timo (5). When he's not justifying his grant with bogus letters or befriending Timo or making love to Jutta (who's indifferent to his condition), he's keeping house and hanging out with Josh, an American musician who's a consummate womanizer. Jutta, raised by racists, is socially ostracized with her mulatto son, and Eric is sexually ostracized--it's a match made in heaven, except that Jutta, very unstable, can't stomach Eric's passivity. The affair turns sadistic and masochistic. The author, meanwhile, regales us with sights and sounds of Vienna street life and episodes involving Jutta and Eric's housemates--in particular Ulrike, a woman with a drunken violent husband intent on getting her back. The violence escalates in general--until finally, during Holy Week, Jutta herself tests positive for the virus (she's been deliberately pricking holes in Eric's condoms), seduces a man in public so that Eric will lose his temper and beat her, and then leaves Timo with Eric while she goes off to commit suicide. All's well that ends well, however: Eric decides to stay in Europe, teach at a small school his Harvard connections have found for him, and raise Timo as his own. A soap-opera at times, too full of undigested detail--but though the book tries to do too much, it's energetic and promises better.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988