MAN OR MANGO? by Lucy Ellmann


A Lament
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An enthusiastic reception should await Ellmann’s third (Sweet Deserts, 1989, etc.), a unique hodge-podge of love, lust, and death whose protagonist has one foot in the grave and a lonely ache in her heart. Eloise has moved from London to a remote country house (bought from an inheritance after her father’s suicide) where she neurotically shuns all contact with the world. When she is forced to interact with, say, even just the milkman or grocer, significant recovery time is required—ranging from minutes to days. Meanwhile, alternate chapters are narrated by George, an ex-Boston baker now living in London and working on an epic poem about ice hockey—and looking for Eloise. Gradually revealed is the passionate tryst the two had earlier, when Eloise was on a fall foliage tour of New England. After being rebuffed by George, she withdrew from the world to live with her three cats while George went on to write raunchy rhymes about her and about the finer points of sports violence. The story’s second section offers narrative snippets told by a variety of curious figures, including Ed, a half-witted mail-bomb terrorist who raises giant vegetables for competition; Owen and Ellen, a father and his young daughter undone by the sadness and danger of life; the Evil Doctor who “killed” Eloise’s parents, and his seething Egyptian wife; and The 3 Old Biddies, who take holidays to steal novelty tea towels. All of these converge, each for their own separate reasons, in self-consciously literary Connemara, where the magic of love and death ensnares every one of them. Ellmann, filling her story with curious lists (of Nazi loot, the death toll of the Irish famine, the major catastrophes of Great Britain, etc.), diagrams, poems, and bits from failed BBC plays, draws from her diverse materials a poignant and witty interpretation of life as we know it. At once bawdy and moving, an unusual and witty novel that offers an unsparing examination of the complexities of the heart.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-19083-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998


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