STRANGE LOOP by Amanda Prantera

STRANGE LOOP

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young philosopher falls in love with a mysterious, brainy child-woman (is she a crazy? a monster?) in this first novel from Britain: Prantera takes a thin scenario, the sort that's frequently found in fantasy/horror short-stories, and fluffs it out with wry verbiage, convent atmosphere, and philosophical chat. The narrator is Austrian-born scientist/logician Ludwig, recalling (40 years later) his experiences at a British convent just after WW II: the young Ludwig takes a summer job as Convent Librarian--hoping to have plenty of time to pursue his original studies in scientific methodology. He moves into his turret room, makes the amusing acquaintance of the nuns (whom he dubs ""Frogface,"" ""Popeye,"" ""Whiskers,"" etc.), and spends genial time in evening dialogues with the meek, rickety Chaplain. But Ludwig is soon distracted by little mysteries: Who has been borrowing--and wittily annotating--philosophy tomes from the Library? Who is the briefly glimpsed occupant of the convent's other turret? It's a young woman, of course, a reclusive war-orphan/refugee named Martina, who periodically retreats behind her locked door and dons some strange head-gaar. Is she a prisoner? It doesn't seem so: Ludwig gradually coaxes her into long strolls and Kantian talks. He trims her wild red hair; she becomes ""a hitherto missing part of myself, my Aristophanic completion""; after much yearning, they become lovers. But meanwhile, despite the general reticence of the convent staff, Ludwig has been learning Martina's secrets. An old file reveals that she has been diagnosed (unfairly, thinks Ludwig) as a paranoid schizophrenic. More disturbingly still, Martina herself confesses that she is. . . a werewolf, subject to monthly transmogrification! So, determined to help Martina regain her sanity, Ludwig plans to prove, at the next full moon, that the werewolf notion is a fantasy. In the event, however, Ludwig's scheme is interrupted by the exorcism attempt of a creepy priest (who knows a real werewolf when he sees one)--leading to a tragic, predictably violent finale and Ludwig's lifelong ""festering, untouchable sore."" (After all, ""what contribution to positivism can be made by a thinker who has known and loved a werewolf?"") Inflated, and more than a little arch--but modestly engaging, offbeat entertainment for readers with a weakness for both gothicky whims and dry British erudition.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1985
Publisher: Dutton