This turbid novel in which almost no story is embedded in a splotchy style which can't quite make up its mind--antebellum? postBaldwin takes 361 of its 382 pages building up to the Confrontation Scene. Between Sidney Shallop, thirty-three, a widow, and mistress of plantation Apoxee, and Beauty Beast, the Negro cook she buys. He's a perfect jewel, in fact a black pearl under his yellow-toned skin: he speaks French (""Pardon Madam. Is there such a thing as pigconnicr on the premises?"") and plays Mendelssohn's Spring Song on the piano. He had belonged to a Judge. Prior to page 361, this gives respective retrospectives of their lives, and there are only two isolated dramatic incidents in the present--her dismissal of her slave who might have tempted him and her killing of another who threatened him in a different fashion..... Mr. Kantor spent fourteen years writing this novel and perhaps it was as difficult to write as it is to read. MAJOR publisher backing.