Kirkus Star


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A delicate duet of personalities is begun when Beatrice Pazzi, a spinster cancer doctor in London, intervenes in the life of her downstairs neighbor, young cellist Maud Eustace, who is vised into the grip of nervous breakdown. Caring gingerly for fragile Maud is something that Beatrice, on a professional level, is very good at; at a deeper, emotional level, however, she has lived a life ""too staunch to go on mood""--so this guardianship is something affectingly, disturbingly new. Meanwhile, through entries in a therapeutic journal, we see what's behind young Maud's distress--a terrible childhood and a recent involvement with a legendary but now reclusive master cellist, Thomas Alba, and his equally retired opera-star wife: brought by Alba into nearly sublime relation with greatness and insight, Maud was then dashed to pieces by the wife's poisonous half-lies about Alba's actions as a Nazi collaborateur. Thus, Maud's trust has been demolished. But now Dr. Beatrice's compassion is on the increase. And Redmon (Emily Stone) orchestrates this double emotional tide with tact and brilliant writing; so lavishly sensate and receptive are the thoughts of the two women that Redmon lets them run on generously, lets them be dazed with their own fineness. And before the end, Beatrice will find Christian grace while Maud locates the soul of her music. Unfortunately, however, Redmon doesn't have enough faith in this marvelous interior drama: she apparently feels the need to throw in a dash of plot--the stalking of both women by a mad religious fanatic. Such a creaky turn not only hurts the book's fluid grace, it also introduces the incongruous aroma of Psycho. But, when this novel stays inside the heads and lives of its two main women characters, it is stunning, varied in tone and response, subtle, and fine. Ignore the plot frame, then, but revel in the intelligence and the textures.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1979
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston