Published widely in England though less known here, Josipovici (Contre-Jour, 1986) offers a fine little book that's...

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IN A HOTEL GARDEN

Published widely in England though less known here, Josipovici (Contre-Jour, 1986) offers a fine little book that's imitative but often lovely indeed. Vacationing in Italy with his rather disagreeable girlfriend, a young Englishman meets a second woman, also vacationing, who's much more interesting than the first. Falling into conversation one day after the next -- and even going on a day's hike with her -- he bit by bit, with a measured gradualness worthy of Henry James, elicits the woman's story from her. It's a story, too, with the aura and subtlety of James: the woman's grandmother once, in the garden of a hotel in Siena, spent a day talking passionately with an unmarried young man whom she never saw again and whose entire family was later destroyed by the Nazis; the woman herself, years afterward, visits Siena for the purpose simply of finding and seeing that garden. Even after the story (that's all there is to it) is out in the open, its meaning may not be; meeting again with the woman back in England, the young Englishman still isn't sure what either the woman or the story means (""What's meaningful?"" she asks him at one point, in a perfect, hyper-Jamesian touch). Talking about it with friends (Rick and Francesca, a married couple) over dinner doesn't help much, and at story's end, as at its framed beginning, neither the young man nor the reader knows whether he'll call the woman again, whether he'll see her, or whether she wants him to. Familiar themes; Katherine Mansfield-esqe lucidities of domestic detail; dialogue and tone often of purest Hemingway (""I am trying, she said. It isn't easy. He was silent. I have to get ready for lunch, she said. Yes, he said""): it all adds up, in the skillful Josipovici's hands, to a brief, indisputably charming, single-evening's pleasure.

Pub Date: May 31, 1995

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995