THE BAD SISTER by Emma Tennant


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An intermittently nightmarish but awfully tortured blend of witchcraft, psychopathology, and feminism. Things start well and crisply, as a commune made up of radical feminists in Scotland knocks off a landowner who, years earlier, seduced and abandoned one of their number. But Tennant then dunks us into the interior monologue of Jane Wild, the landowner's illegitimate daughter, who, under the spell of Meg, the commune leader, is somnambulistically sent out to kill her legitimate half-sister. By day Jane lives with Tony, a screenwriter (she herself is a film critic) and suffers all the feminist injuries a modern girl is alert to; by night she wanders the streets of London, in search of her prey, returning in the morning with her clothes sulphurous-smelling. Meg, who is by the by a vampiress, calls the shots--and Jane is never sure which she is, spook or schizophrenic. Tennant is a clearly intelligent writer, and the lurid excesses here are obviously meant as an exaggeration of feminist frustrations; but she dices up reality and fantasy so finely together that the product is over-fermented and woozy-making. Bloodsucking, night-rambling, and heavy breathing about ""double female self"" or ""male principle"" just muddy up the lighting, which at times is quite striking.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan