WOMEN AND GHOSTS by Alison Lurie


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With her usual dry wit, Lurie (The Truth About Lorin Jones, 1988, etc.) makes the supernatural seem at first possible, and then inevitable, as this collection's gimmick loses its freshness. These are all satisfying tales individually, but none stand out from the crowd, and they suffer from collective overkill as the unearthly phenomena begin to seem like an easy way out of all narrative entanglements rather than an integral part of the plots. For example, the narrator of ""Ilse's House"" was about to marry a successful academic when she began having visions of a woman's legs sticking out from the space next to the refrigerator, a spot where her fiancÉ once found his first wife sitting in the dark after he stayed late at a party. The excuse of the ghost rescues the narrator from clarifying exactly why she ended the relationship. Lurie has a knack for letting the punishment fit the crime, but often the ghosts seem unimaginative. ""The Pool People"" start appearing in the pool of a rather unpleasant woman who has not allowed the men working on her house to cool off there, especially because she feared that one might have AIDS. While the ghosts' initial appearance is poetic justice, they fail to do much. Finally, a dose of detachment hampers the shivers. ""In the Shadow"" follows Celia, an employee at the American embassy in London, whose rejected suitor dies in a car accident. Even a transfer to a remote country does not stop her from seeing the dead man whenever she gets close to a lover and hearing his rude comments on her partners. But the story's effect is diminished because she was never in love with the suitor in the first place. Crisp prose throughout, but the spook show gets in the way of character development.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0385518315
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday