This terse, enigmatic 1969 novel—the third from its gifted, troubled (ultimately suicidal) British author (1936–73)—completes Dalkey’s US publication of her slender fictional output (Tripticks, p. 703, etc.). It eschews conventional characterization and narrative for reminiscence, dream, and fantasy, as indulged by the story’s alternating narrators. One is an unnamed woman in her 30s who searches for her lost (possibly dead) brother in unidentified, variously exotic foreign climes (references to “almond trees” and “dunes” are intriguing but unspecific), where insurrection and repression continually recycle and women are routinely exploited and brutalized by men. The other narrator is her lover, a self-absorbed academic whose oversimplified surmises about her behavior are counterpointed against marginal comments comparing himself with figures from Greek mythology.
Quin’s fragmented text, interrupted streams of consciousness, and emphasis on S&M excess generate intermittent power, but overall tend to ensure that the woman’s climactic request—“All I ask is to be left in peace with my own madness”—will be eagerly granted by many, if not most, readers.