A first novel--about a young woman's delayed rebellion against the emotionally oppressive world created by her parents--that...



A first novel--about a young woman's delayed rebellion against the emotionally oppressive world created by her parents--that starts off with a penetrating brilliance but then loses its way and half-dawdles to an end. ""Renifleur"" is a psychiatric term for one who is sexually aroused by scents--as was the case with Mona Emory's father: highly opinionated paterfamilias of the Victorian-disciplinarian stamp, professor of chemistry at Georgetown University, worldwide consultant to international perfume manufacturers--and a man in the strict habit, each day after lunch, of taking his docile wife to an upstairs bedroom for sex. While these erotic interludes took place, the children of the family would bide their time by playing obediently in the flower-filled backyard garden--not entirely certain what was happening upstairs, but painfully conscious that something was. So strong was the sense of her parents' embarrassing eccentricities that when they died in a plane accident in Europe, Mona, the middle child, ""felt relieved""--and yet would spend the rest of her early years struggling to free herself from the constricting emotional knots that were the legacy of their decadence-within-the-hidebound. A failed love affair ensues, a brief descent into a pornography ring, a degree as medical illustrator (Mona is a gifted graphic artist), and finally a return home to work with her grandfather (Chairman of the Anatomy Department, also at Georgetown) on his magnum opus, a medical textbook. And then? The novel winds down in a more genre-touched way, with Mona reexamining her childhood--more redundantly than dramatically--until she is impelled at last to take clippers and spade to the old backyard flower garden, declaring her freedom from the perverse hand of the past. Successful art (her own) and promise of romance follow. An initially rich but narrow premise here injects breath into the novel more in fits than in the whole, though elements throughout can be alluringly masterful, indeed--the medical lore and Mona's work as an artist of anatomy among them. Less commanding is the novel's more uncertain second half, with the author working hard to fill the pages, and the words.

Pub Date: June 12, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987