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 Ashley's fiction debut is composed of two cleverly interconnecting, manneristically twisted novellas about three pieces of Venetian flotsam--a beautiful, lonely writer named Mira; her dying, Thomas Mann-ish lover, Aidan; and his confused son, James. In ``The Name of the Father,'' young James appears on Mira's doorstep, as if washed up by the tide, to meet his late father's last paramour and, through her, to come to know Aidan--who abandoned his son many years ago to his movie-star wife. James uses Mira's roman Ö clef about her relationship with Aidan (called ``The Name of the Son'') to guide him in his quest, dogging Mira as she roams about Venice, making love to her on his father's grave, and helping her dry out the pages of her latest manuscript after it falls into the canal. Eventually, though, they part, with some suggestion that once the two of them sort out their tangled emotions, they'll reconnoiter. Then Ashley launches into The Name of the Son itself, which describes how Aidan and Mira got together. And all the Venetian settings from the first novella are revisited, this time with another set of high-strung lovers--Mira and the elderly Aidan--though the end of the tale has already been writ in the stones of Venice, since Aidan dies, leaving Mira ready to receive his son seven years hence. The prose is as overwrought as the characters (``...she had fallen in love with him. And fallen. And fallen. Until he himself had been felled''), and one senses that beneath all the sound and fury, there isn't much. At best, then: a kind of aesthetic back- rub for those with a taste for high-design fiction.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-345-37045-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991