A turgid allegorical debut novel about one very unhappy man who lives in big house full of extremely strange women.
Thomas is a physician: That’s about the only objective fact we learn of him. At some point not very far in the past, he crossed a fetid river and came to live in his present home, a large house run by the elderly twin sisters Frieda and Maria. Frieda hires Thomas to serve as a kind of general handyman—keeping the boiler working in the winter, picking up firewood, and attending to various odd jobs as they arise. Also in the house are the beautiful sculptress Christina, the bedridden Rebecca, the cook Nina, the ex-missionary Bella, the abandoned child Genia, and Genia’s governess Elena. Thomas hates Maria but is in love with Christina. He procures drugs for Bella, who spends a lot of time praying and is an addict. He likes the 11-year-old Genia, but he refuses her advances when she propositions him. Thomas has sex quite frequently with Nina, who is believed to have been a prostitute before she came to the house, but his relations with her are otherwise formal and somewhat distant. There are a number of crazy occurrences, mostly unfortunate. Christina swims in the fetid river against everyone’s advice and goes blind as a result. Elena kills Maria. Christina leaps out the window one night and disappears. Eventually, when Thomas is no longer able to get drugs for Bella, she goes into withdrawal and nearly dies. Thomas begins to wonder what he’s doing in such a crazy place.
It’s a question you may ask long before he does: pompous, long-winded, and virtually unreadable.