PALOMINO by Elizabeth Jolley


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In previous novels (The Well Woman in a Lampshade, etc.), Jolley dished up cool blends of satire, lesbian longing, and gothic plotting. Here, she offers readers an achingly sensual portrait of a May-December romance between two women, couched in melodramatic revelations and peppered with biting observations of middle-class vulgarity--a vice beneath contempt for the novel's heroine. For ten years, 60-ish Laura has lived alone on a remote farm, sustained by a fierce love of the land and by the solitary pleasures of a refined sensibility. Once a gynecologist, she has been imprisoned for a mysterious medical crime. Her social life is now confined to dinners with her former colleagues Rodney Glass and Michael Fort, Returning by ship from a journey around the world meant to reawaken her senses, Laura falls in love with a frail young woman with hair the color of a palomino. Laura can't bring herself to speak, but by the time she watches Andrea greet her brother at port (and witnesses their fatal attraction), she has elaborated fantasies of a life together in the sweet isolation of her farm. Months of yearning go by, marred by problems with her shiftless tenants, the Murphys. Then, by chance, the two women meet at one of Rodney Glass' dinner parties. Andrea invites herself to the farm, and the two women become lovers. Amid orchards and nights of love-making and Beethoven, their love deepens--but dark secrets are revealed. Finally, after a holiday at the farm with friends, family, and lovers past, both must face the music of their different ages, different loves. This time around, the familiar harsh vinegar of Jolley's social observations seems only to emphasize the heavy, cloying love story beneath, and to do too little by way of vindicating Laura's culpability for the crime in her past. In all, perhaps the least palatable of Jolley's fiction.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Persea