THE FAVOURITE by Meredith Daneman


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 In her third book, British novelist Daneman (A Chance to Sit Down, 1972) plays erotic geometry with the oedipal triangle--but it all seems flat as a plane in the end. Rosalind's husband, Frank, is leaving her for another woman. Fair enough, it seems, since she stole him from his first wife. But these overlapping love triangles seem merely an echo of the primal one: mother-father-daughter. Rosalind was always her father's favorite; she was the bait her mother used to keep her father at home. Daddy looms large in Rosalind's memories, a forceful man and a philanderer who was always running away from home or courting death, only to return in the end. But it is her mother who is the focus of Rosalind's love: ``For me her face is the original, the one on which my idea of faces is based.'' It's hard to understand, since we learn little of her mother other than that she loves to shop for hats and is so distracted that she sometimes gives Rosalind sandwiches with only tomato for filling. (And is it any surprise that little Ros prefers her sandwiches cut into triangles rather than squares?) As Rosalind's narrative jumps back and forth between her childhood in Australia and her present life in England, she also relates her own first experience of sexual desire as a teenager pursued by an older man; her steamy affair with Frank; and the delight she takes in her two young daughters. Frank will return in the end, but Rosalind suffers a far worse betrayal and learns that the family myth of the favorite daughter masks a deeper truth. Daneman can be witty enough with male/female relationships and is perspicacious in portraying children. But readers who know their Freud will be less shocked than Rosalind by the final revelation and will not share her opinion that ``[her] own banal story much more compelling'' than any other.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42625-6
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994