MIA by Derek Monsey


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Monsey wrote the anti-heroic The Hero Observed (1961); he's a British cinema critic and many of his effects are as shiny as anything on film. Or so it seems in the beginning -- there are seductive landscapes of Florence in the half-light of the old world; the tone is suggestive (""hooded"" is a recurrent word); and the Mia of the title (viz. Mona Lisa) is a woman who can be had but not possessed. Available but unattainable, she is reputed to have become something of a Darling to all the English expatriates. She also has an obsessional allure, certainly for the young man, Simon, who tells her story and whose curiosity is snagged by her uncertain moods, her ""affectations of the significant mystical."" But before long, at any rate halfway through, the story becomes desultory; it doesn't seem to be going or getting anywhere. There's a cautionary analogy with another, now aging, coarsened playgirl de luxe who commits suicide or is murdered; there are allusions-- to her mother's relationship with an aging British homosexual; to Mia's too close attachment to her younger brother; etc., etc. The mood established is one of infinite loss- ah Mia, oh my. But as it stands the book doesn't add up to much more than a sophisticated charade in elegant surroundings.

Publisher: Knopf