TRIPTYCH by Dora & Elinor Klein Landey


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Two women, mother and adopted daughter, surfer through passion, poverty, and prosperity with hard-breathing declamations and occasional screaming--in a loosely loony tale that lolls over Russia, Paris, Italy, New York, and Germany. In 1880s St. Petersburg, royal-blooded Sonya--disgusted with glitter, a social pill--is lured into the revolutionist movement by her excitable brother Bruno; she even agrees to marry the elegant Count Gregory Tolchin so the Cause can ""control this despicable man."" But her new husband--who uncorks her ""shameless desire""--is really a comrade in toff disguise! And it's he who then directs Sonya's assignments--affairs with various officials--until Sonya goofs and shoots a police official without orders: she's shipped in disgrace to America. While in steerage, however, Sonya appropriates an orphaned Jewish baby, eventually convincing Tolchin (with whom she's simply furious for deserting her) that he's the father of ""Delphi."" The couple reunites in the New World; Sonia attacks Tolchin with a knife; there's a screaming match, and blasts of passion: ""there would never be anything as terrifying as this possession of her by him. . . she lay in ruins, smoldering, in ashes."" But Sonia will burn bright as an anarchist hostess in Manhattan, bouncing from cause to cause--while Delphi grows up to discover a bourgeois love for painting. And since neither of her ""parents"" will support her art studies, Delphi takes off to Italy to work for art historian Carl, an eccentric, unlovely genius, later studying with painter/ forger Luis Marra, who'll sire her baby; the baby is killed because Delphi is lost in her art; after much yowling and screaming, Delphi is on the Paris road to celebrity status through an innovative photographer. And finally, after marriage to a nice German (fated to be killed by his Nazi son), Delphi gives birth to baby Anna back in the US--but though Sonya is a loving grandmother, unmaternal Delphi accepts her own choosing of ""a man's life. . . immoderate and cruel in wanting."" An amorphous pudding--more portentous than Landey and Klein's Dazzle (1980), but just as foolish.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin