IN THE GLOAMING by Alice Elliott Dark


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Pride of place in this second collection of ten stories by Dark (Naked to the Waist, 1991) is given to a tale that has already become something of a contemporary classic. The title piece (successfully adapted for TV) portrays the restrained sorrow of a mother who cares for her adult son as he’s dying from AIDS, and her eventual realization that he—not her buttoned-up cold fish of a husband—has been “the love of her life." It’s the most immediately arresting, though not nearly the most accomplished, of Dark’s knowing, if occasionally slightly clichÇd, dramatizations of romantic obsession, marital discord, and family unhappiness. In “Close,” for example, a disoriented father-to-be wrestles—fairly predictably—with the temptation to cheat on his pregnant wife. “Home” depicts the confused reminiscences of marriage and motherhood of an Alzheimer’s patient being herded into a nursing home. And “The Jungle Lodge” portrays two sisters matured in different ways by a vacation in Peru with their doting stepfather. The more ambitious tales are generally better. “Dreadful Language” encapsulates the whole lifetime of a “judgmental” girl who coolly distances herself from loved ones, marries for comfort, and finds she has condemned herself to a life of unfulfillment. In “The Tower,” an amusing parody of Henry James’s tales of renunciation, a fortyish bachelor encounters at home and abroad an enticing young woman with whom he finds he must settle for a platonic friendship. The story even apes James’s penchant for injecting workaday metaphors (“Clara, . . . had depleted her tanks”) into otherwise ultra-genteel periodic sentences. And “Watch the Animals” deftly chronicles an unconventional heiress’s effect on her social set, in a story narrated in an eloquent first-person plural voice. Interesting forays into Cheever and Alice Adams territory, with a trace of Deborah Eisenberg’s range of subject matter. A generally worthy successor to Dark’s well-received debut volume. (First serial to Harper’s)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86521-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999


FictionTHINK OF ENGLAND by Alice Elliott Dark
by Alice Elliott Dark
FictionNAKED TO THE WAIST by Alice Elliott Dark
by Alice Elliott Dark