THE RED RAVEN by Lilli Palmer
Kirkus Star


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Novel--or a slice of autobiography? No matter. Whether inventing or remembering, Lilli Palmer--or the narrator known only as L.--views the ironic/tragic love triangle here with precisely the right blend of shaded nostalgia, time-muted pain, pinched amusement, and sheer wonder. Why wonder? Because L., as hard as it is for her to believe, went through her late-1930s affair with artist Jerome and her intense friendship with rich, married Anabel never knowing that Jerome and Anabel were lovers. Now it's 1947, and actress L.--between sessions of posing for a crusty woman painter who, coincidentally, was an early lover of the irresistible Anabel--is reading Anabel's diary, contrasting the truth with the way L. saw things at the time. Palmer handles this past/present montage (London, Paris, south of France) with crisp command--no corny flashback feeling--and the peculiar perspectives turn what could be soap opera scenes into tragicomedy: distraught Anabel's creation of a fictional lover (""Ferencsi"") about whom she can pour her heart out to L.; each woman's weird consultations with Jerome's mad, wise hermit father; L.'s panicky appeal to Anabel to help her when Jerome begins an affair with a Parisian art-dealer's wife (Anabel dispatches the mistress--for both their sakes?--with panache); the events leading up to discarded, isolated Anabel's suicide. And in the interwoven story of Jerome and L.'s vacation friends--a trio of Jewish refugees on a fruit farm in France: husband, wife, mistress (the wife's sister)--Palmer finds a neat, subtly disturbing parallel to the central triangle. An impressive technical accomplishment then. But far more important, L.'s quietly projected olderbut-wiser personality--open, tender, self-deprecating--is what endows the rather pathetic maneuvers of all three lovers with mystery and resonance. A passably intriguing story, a positively intoxicating storyteller.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1978
Publisher: Macmillan