A WOMAN OF JUDAH by Ronald Frame


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In a novella and stories, Frame(Sandmouth. 1987; Winter Journey, 1986) explores the role of the storyteller (or artist) as voyeur and the enigma of real--as opposed to socially observable--personality. In A Woman of Judah, inspired by the Biblical story of Susannah and the elders, a young lawyer (and would-be novelist) begins his practice in a backward town in the West of England--where "what other people don't know about you or cannot discover they will concoct for themselves, fabricate, and then bare passed around just as they see fit." More observer of than participant in local life, William is drawn to Dr. and Mrs. Davies, out of curiosity--because there is something studied and unnatural about their words and actions--and out of infatuation with Vivien, the provocative Mrs. Davies. When town elders accuse her of indecent behavior, William refutes their charges; no one, however, is really convinced of her innocence. Vivien's accusers and husband meet sudden deaths; William leaves town and over the years follows her career as she buries one elderly rich husband after another. Similarly, in many of the short stories here (more properly sketches and speculation about various people--eating in a seafood restaurant in "Fruits de Mer"; at the beach and in the painting that portrays them in "Sur la Plage Ö Trouville"), Frame describes his characters in detail, while suggesting there is more to them than meets the eye. Another recurring theme is the complicity between victim and victimizer--pale imitations of Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat. Elegant writing, precise yet evocative descriptions of people, gesture and place, but one could wish for more substance.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1989
ISBN: 393-02692-2
Publisher: Norton
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