JUSTINE by Alice Thompson

JUSTINE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Scottish writer Thompson’s second outing is her first here—and while some will groan at its jejune, vapid, imitative clunkiness, others will be smitten by its psycho-feminist puzzlings and probings. With debts to Henry James, Oscar Wilde, the Marquis de Sade, etc., etc., etc., Thompson takes a nameless and reclusive hyper-aesthete, makes him god-like of face and club of foot, surrounds him with glorious objets d—art in his Kensington Gardens flat, and has him fall passionately in love—with a portrait on the wall. Whether he’s in love with the —real— Justine or the —ideal— Justine of the portrait, whether he loves the woman or wants to —own— her, remain (as they—ve long, long had a way of doing) central to the mysteries, mazes, dreams, terrors, and tortures that follow, with an outcome that readers will have to find out for themselves. Our narrator, though, thinking himself divinely blessed by the fate of being spoken to by the real Justine in the stacks of a library (— —Why me?— — — —Because of your face. It is like Michelangelo’s Adam reaching out to God— —), ends up tricked, then tricked and tricked again not only by Justine but by Justine’s twin sister Juliette, even to the point of committing a murder (uh-huh, it’s very, very, very gory) in order to ’save— Justine from a murderer of her own—though from then on, things go badly indeed for Narrator, who will follow mazes and enter houses he’s seen in dreams, find himself behind bars, lose his club foot, and... But one mustn—t tell too much. Admittedly, there are brief moments, especially near the end, of psychological interest, mystery, even a certain penetration, though the road to them is well paved with banality (—However, I could hardly take what she was telling me seriously—it read like something out of a bad detective novel—). For those, only, who like their mind- and gender-teasers in —novel— form.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-887178-65-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998