HOMEWORK by Margot Livesey


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Transatlantic writer Livesey follows her first volume of short stories (Learning by Heart, 1987--not reviewed) with a sensitive, overlong page-turner about a romantic heroine menaced by her beau's jealous young daughter. Celia Gilchrist leaves London for a new editorial job in Edinburgh with bitter memories of a failed romance--and then is surprised to find herself falling in love again with Stephen, a math teacher she's met at a party. Stephen is perfect, but his family--estranged-but-still-official wife Helen and increasingly sinister nine-year-old daughter Jenny--isn't. As Celia and Stephen settle into a house they're renovating, Jenny--who's suddenly dumped on them when Helen finds work and love in Paris--asserts herself by filching money and jewelry; abandoning Celia on an island during hide-and-seek; trying to kill Celia's pet rabbit; putting vinegar into Celia's contact-lens cleaner; and finally setting the house on fire. Since Stephen never believes Celia's accusations, she retreats into herself, stirring up memories of her futile attempts to manipulate her own remote, demanding father and impossibly beautiful mother, and finally succeeding in seeing Jenny and herself as twins before the inconclusive fade-out. Evocatively written but so repetitive--as if The Turn of the Screw had been turned into a TV series--that intelligent, appealing Celia seems rather dense.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0312420447
Publisher: Viking