This first novel from Gilligan (Humanities and Applied Psychology/New York Univ.; The Birth of Pleasure, 2002, etc.) is an erudite but lukewarm romance between an architect, Kyra, and an opera director, Andreas.
Kyra and Andreas are both brilliant, both recovering from the loss of a spouse. After Kyra’s husband was shot to death, largely due to her half-brother’s betrayal, during political upheavals on her native Cyprus, she went on to establish herself as an architect, teaching at Harvard and designing the “Carthage Project” on Nashawena Island near Boston. Andreas’s wife was arrested in Hungary for her political resistance and never seen again. Andreas, who escaped the country with their small son, assumes she was killed. He directs opera. The attraction between Kyra and Andreas is evident early on, but their love affair evolves slowly, their intellectual collaborations and conversations laden with sensual undertones that take awfully long to become overt despite neck massages and arms brushing shoulders. Finally, while together on Nashawena, where Kyra is experimenting with a new urban design and Andreas is staging Tosca, their passion blooms along with their creative and intellectual productions. But when Andreas announces he is leaving for a directing job abroad, Kyra feels betrayed. Devastated, she slits her wrists. In recovery, Kyra begins to see a therapist, Greta. Kyra challenges Greta to change the parameters of the traditional therapist-patient relationship by opening herself up in degrees to Kyra. When Andreas reappears and tells Kyra, “My soul lives in the vicinity of you,” Kyra gives him another chance. Both still smart from their losses, but each finds redemption through love—it’s a kind of intellectually charged happily every after. Gilligan’s musings on architecture, music, spirituality and art, particularly of the painting “The Kiss,” are insightful and provocative. But the plot plods and the lovers lollygag with their noble suffering ad nausea.
Offers exquisite turns of phrase, but scholarly and without much fictional pulse.