DREAMHOUSE by Kate Grenville


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The heroine of Australian author Grenville's fiery and moving Lilian's Story (1986) was monstrously fat; here, Louise is beautiful and ""full of greed""--which explains her marriage to Rennie (soon to be a professor), a vain man with a thick orange moustache. Louise and fatuous Rennie travel to Tuscany for a working vacation (Rennie creates thesis notes; Louise types); and it is in that fabled Italian paradise that Louise, finding that man is not only vile but tiresome, embarks on a more promising sexual possibility--a not-altogether rousing climax to this horridly funny, brightly nasty little salute to men who hate women. At first, Rennie and Louise put up in the ""mouse house,"" a rotting edifice grandly offered by academic Daniel, who eventually has Rennie, his ""dear boy,"" in and out of bed. (Smoothy Daniel, muses Louise, ""could be the response to a fat mother who'd shouted so hard when she was angry that the metal curlers on her head shook like the castanets of a Salvation Army tamborine."") Daniel entertains himself and Louise by staging the slow death of a potted lobster; Daniel's son Hugo tortures and stuffs small creatures; and daughter Viola, with whom brother Hugo has incestuous sex, is blandly smiling and most secretive. The odd quintet visit a carnival (where Louise recognizes Rennie's sexual proclivities) and a mountaintop monastery (their famous frescoes celebrate male anatomy) where Louise, after some sticky romps and an eye-opening night with Viola, ticks off some surprises. Rennie, however, is not quite up to strenuous sexual hoopla, and after his great later triumph--he works himself up to shouting an eff-word from a Milan cathedral--Louise dumps him to bucket back to Tuscany. The narrative sizzles with snaps and pops of vitriol, and drizzles with Nature's un-pleasant underside--effulgences from orifices of both flora and fauna. With a sharp feminist message beaten out on a framework taut as a drumskin, a hilarious sexual odyssey, with the bite of an asp.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking