POET AND DANCER by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala


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 The latest from novelist and screenwriter Jhabvala (Three Continents, 1987, etc.): a quiet horror-tale of a relationship in which innocence willingly pays the price evil demands. Set in Manhattan in the recent past--a dreamy, nonspecific place--it's the story of two first cousins: beautiful and capricious Lara, who likes to dance, and plain but responsible Angel, who writes poetry. The two meet as children when Lara comes to New York to visit her grandparents, with whom Angel and her divorced mother Helen share a large house. On that visit, Lara seduces Angel. After college, Angel stays home and helps her mother in the import business she runs--but she never forgets that encounter. And when Lara returns to New York after her mother's suicide to live with her psychiatrist father, Hugo, Angel is as enthralled as ever. It's soon apparent, however--as Lara drifts from dance to acting, from casual pickups to seducing Angel's father, a wealthy businessman, who sets her up in an apartment-- that Lara is different, dangerously so. Not ``mad, just bad,'' says one friend. But Angel, ever dutiful in her decision to protect Lara, is in one sense assuming her habitual submissive role, yet in another is asserting for the first time her own wishes. As Lara's moods and behavior become more erratic, she makes Angel promise never to leave her, and while Angel realizes that ``a great promise had been made and broken''--though it was not clear whether she had done it or whether it had been done to her--``the least she could do now was to keep her promise to Lara,'' with inevitably fatal results. A masterful portrait of ``good people trying to do all right and the bad ones that pull them down and win,'' from a writer of remarkably acute sensitivity and perception.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-46869-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992


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