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A skillful and shapely but curiously bland performance from the author of Sleepwalking (1982) and Caribou (1984). Hidden Pictures is bland on a provocative subject: the making of a lesbian from a proper housewife and mother. As the novel opens, Laura Giovanni, young free lance artist and mother of a two-year-old son, Ian, has just separated from her husband and is contemplating her life in the same way she contemplates the contours of her newly bare apartment: both are blank slates, full of ""hidden pictures"" Laura will have to discover or create. When Laura meets Julia, a dark, seductive lesbian photographer for whom she feels a powerful attraction, the first piece of the puzzle falls into place. Laura is sexually aroused only by women. Unfortunately, after Laura overcomes a few qualms (""She would desperately look for a man to focus on"") about her lesbianism (as Wolitzer calls it throughout the book), the ""hidden pictures"" in her life appear to be domestic rather than sexual or psychological: where to live, whom to live with, how to raise her son humanely. Laura solves these problems, and she and her long-term lover, a motherly carpenter named Jane, even overcome the stuffy resistance of suburban neighbors to their unconventional way of living. But Wolitzer never returns to the complex of moral, psychological and sexual questions that makes Laura different from a young woman who simply divorces and remarries, and so the final effect of this well-constructed, well-dramatized novel is a little thin and pale.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1986
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin