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Very much in the moody, gray mode of Nova's previous book, The Good Son (1982), this is the story of Alexandra Pearson, the sole and grown daughter of a diffident but enormously rich New England politician, a man whose greatest interest apparently is to engage his daughter in quasi-mystical contests of skill. Uppermost, it's a match to see which one of them will be the first to catch a legendary trout on Pearson's property--a sport on which even Alexandra's eventual bequest will depend. But then the congressman dies, and despite the trout, Alexandra finds herself maneuvered into an affection-less marriage with a once-associate of her father's, a totally loathsome cad named Bryce. How Alexandra frees herself from the sadistic Bryce, with help from a lover she takes in the local village, provides the drumbeat to whatever else transpires. But, as told by a kindly retired male neighbor who knows everything about Alexandra (and is utterly not credible for even a moment), a weak pad it is, this beat. Nova is short on story and long on a gauzy, imprecise, melancholic tone. Events are told that are invariably wayward, miscellaneous, improbable--as if these ratified their unimpeachable reality. Like in The Good Son, a WASP myth--one of dynasty and tragedy--seems attempted. And once more, it fails, it being the largest pretension of all in a book full of them, in a writer who seems distressingly interested only in them. Much dark mannerism, then--with only the feeblest emotional validity behind it.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1986
Publisher: Delacorte