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OTHER WOMEN by Evelyn Lau


by Evelyn Lau

Pub Date: May 9th, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82457-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 A yearlong dalliance between an artistic young woman and a remote, powerful, married businessman, which, though never sexually consummated, becomes the girl's primary obsession--in a gifted young writer's first novel (but third sex-saturated, half- successful book: the story collection Fresh Girls and a memoir, Runaway, both 1995). Fiona, 24, meets Raymond, 49, one rain-soaked night at a black-tie arts-award reception in a city native to neither of them. The two exchange only a few words, but the next day Fiona catches a glimpse of Raymond from her taxi; she jumps out and, when he beckons to her, follows him through the revolving doors of his hotel. So begins a year of guilt-racked nibbling at Fiona's body parts for Raymond, and for Fiona a love fixation that remains weirdly abstract but, she tells us repeatedly, is all-consuming. The two meet in hotel rooms in various cities another half-dozen times before Raymond (``I love my wife'') calls off the affair abruptly and completely; meanwhile, Fiona thinks constantly of him (``the first man for whom she had felt this confusion of desire'') and fantasizes that she'll win him back. Her fantasies include one in which Raymond's wife is humiliated and raped in a parking garage, another in which she inhabits the wife's body while Raymond and the wife make love. She also hallucinates Raymond's face and presence everywhere, except when she's remembering emotionless snippets from her teenage years (such as having sex with a friend's father). The atmosphere of the novel is pathological precisely because Fiona's proclaimed emotionality is inscrutable and invisible to the reader; in sometimes elegant and sometimes windy prose, Lau watches Fiona wandering around, self-absorbed and narcissistic, and forgets that readers require plot and character development in addition to tragic poses. Neither is here, unfortunately. In the end, a slight book from a still-promising writer.