THE TIGER IN THE TIGER PIT by Janette Turner Hospital


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Hospital's 1983 debut, The Ivory Swing, was a book of such discriminating seriousness and artful construction that one tries hard to find signs of talent in this unfortunate second novel. The story, what shreds of it can be made out under the thunderheads of effulgent style, centers on the 50th-wedding anniversary party of Edward and Elizabeth Carpenter. Their grown children--Victoria (mentally ill, now in her forties), psychiatrist Jason, and concert-violinist Emily (with an illegitimate son)--are lured back to Massachusetts to bear witness despite old hatreds, traumas, and denunciations; at different levels, they're all awash in emotion. Edward, a retired school principal, is in rageful mourning for his life's one lost opportunity at passion. Elizabeth tightly holds onto a 40-year secret concerning her own love-life. But all these feelings are drowned, for the most part, in Hospital's heaving, superliterary prose. (""And the whole orchestra confirming, a haunting chorus, now mournful, now shrill with exhilaration, celebrating impossible losses and glories and obsessions. Acknowledging the passion for passion--of parents for their remote children, of lovers for unattainable loves."") And this is one of those churningly well-meaning novels that seeks to recapitulate its thematic and structural concerns in every paragraph, or even every sentence: a self-conscious misstep for a still-promising writer.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1984
Publisher: Dutton