An intellectually ambitious first novel about a young woman whose happiness is threatened by a family legacy mingling tragedy and genius. When noted American photographer Thomas Simmons decides to spend Christmas in the Bahamas, he is feeling jaded and depressed about his work. A chance meeting and a brief affair with intriguingly mysterious Esther Gautier, just in from Geneva and staying at the same hotel, however, soon affects both his emotions and his artistic ambitions. Esther, there to visit her father, Crist¢bal de la Torre, who has told her that he is dying, is waiting to take a small plane to the tiny island he inhabits. Crist¢bal, a famous Cuban-born sculptor who was friends with Picasso and the like, is devoting his declining years to his masterpiece, a memorial to his dead wife, TherÇse, that would recall their short life together, his understanding of the past, and his vision of the future. Esther, who blamed him for her young mother's suicide, and for her own lonely childhood spent with relatives in Europe, finds her father far from dying, and, angered by his duplicity, refuses to see his work. She's soon joined by Thomas, who, having learned her real identity, has tracked her down. He's enchanted with Crist¢bal, a Prospero-like figure who has magically transformed the island itself into a work of art--``The Garden of the Peacocks.'' But Esther, soured by the license that art claims, is neither appeased by her father's confessions of error nor by his talk of the past, of pre-revolutionary Cuba, and of his peripatetic life. Only when she confronts the work's centerpiece does she understand at last his love for her and her mother. And Thomas, no longer jaded, is about to take the photos of a lifetime. An obviously intelligent debut novel that's better, though, at describing places and ideas than people--who often seem less alive than the sculpture.