RINGARRA by Coral Lansbury


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Lansbury stretches that Gothic fictional tradition that features a demon lover and hapless female victim, to include some rather muddy speculations re the coupling of Fear and Lust that can drag under even the most jaunty of feminists. It all takes place in the Australian bush, with some weird and gruesome stuff under the eucalyptus. Katsie McLeod, American fiancÉe of nice Australian Bob Waterson, returns with him from their grad school in the States to meet the parents in Sydney (a downer), and then goes with Bob to help with the accounting chore promised by Michael Travener, big cheese at the sheep ranch Ringarra. In Bob's eyes, Travener is ""a pretty remarkable sort of bloke,"" but to Katsie hell be ""like a force of wind--a power of sexuality so strong that she shrank back."" Katsie had been more or less softened for the kill, since before arriving at Ringarra she was treated to: a flood, a vision of hell in the shape of a terrible wild boar's head; the discovery of a boot in the mud with body attached; and the sight of Travener shooting a terrified, healthy horse. But still, Katsie knows she's a captive of S-x! Even so, she's left with enough brain to do a bit of snooping and to uncover, eventually, some of Travener's slimier doings--the mildest being his bilking of the Australian sheep and cattle business and an airy proliferation of hoof-and-mouth disease. Of course, there's a murder roster, a suicide of a flaked-out wife (a Mrs. Danvers type of housekeeper), a drugging; and before too long, Katsie (who helplessly ""gave"" herself) and Bob are staked out for some very real wild boars. At last Katsie opens her past where buried horrors lie, and blinking away a version of Travener as Mr. Rochester, sees instead ""Captain Murder""! In spite of Travener's sledgehammer effect on Katsie, he's no Rochester (who shivered female timbers without resorting to wild boars); and Katsie--rather a likably snappish bird initially--takes a nutty turn for the worse in this messy but appropriately gloom-hung Gothic-cum-Message.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row