PRAYING MANTIS by Domini Taylor


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Taylor's brightly malicious fourth novel (after Mother Love, Gemini, and Teacher's Pet): the story of a charming but monstrous egoist who turns from making other people's lives miserable to ending them completely. Taylor's title says it all: her heroine is a woman who devours her men after mating with them. Victoria (self-named Debonnaire) Courtenay Bramall Lambert, whose changing names tell her story, is rescued as a child from her seedy parents by her social-climbing Aunt Marigold and launched on an unnervingly plausible career as the ideally evil niece, wife, stepmother, and mother. The first half of the story details in needlessly cumbersome flashbacks Victoria's relationship with her discarded daughter Lottie (Taylor's only strongly sympathetic character) and the events leading up to Victoria's last marriage (a wicked surprise when it finally comes); the second half, focusing on her futile attempts to beget a son, shows Victoria to be as single-minded as Thomas Sutpen or Henry VIII but much funnier. Taylor's tone of deadpan comedy makes something heroic of Victoria's straight-faced sell-justifications for disposing of her Uncle Gordon; her much older first husband, Gerald Bramall; and finally her second husband, the amiable dilettante Gordon Lambert, the fianc‚ of Lottie's whom she seduces during her daughter's birthday party. Nothing very original here, and nothing Taylor hasn't done equally well before. But anyone who can give us the edifying picture of Victoria sending pornographic descriptions of her lovemaking to her lover's wife to provoke her suicide, or Victoria smashing her priceless Chinese porcelain to avoid sending it to her stepdaughter, or Victoria finally overreaching herself on the last page of the novel, is welcome to keep mining the same territory forever.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1989
ISBN: 1593018509
Publisher: Atheneum