A wispy mood piece centered on a creepy girl's sexual awakening; a second novel, it's quite as languid as the author's first (The Perfect Place, 1989). Bill is a tomboy in her early teens, the middle of three sisters who, in the 1920's, are growing up in a South African gold- mining town on the veldt. Their father, a self-made man, is a diamond appraiser; their mother is a semi-invalid, always resting, seeking relief from her migraines; a blind Zulu servant tends the house. Bill is used to getting her own way. She is her mother's favorite and confidante. Her sisters defer to her, perhaps out of fear. In a house becalmed, she is the movement. She runs to catch the tram in the lulling heat. The tram will take her to the cinema, where she will watch the horseman sweep across the desert sand (the novel's dominant image). Back on the street, Bill is followed by men who pay for her favors (a diamond ring for a kiss). Or do they? Fantasy and reality merge in a work that feeds on ambiguity. At home Bill maims herself--using a garden rake on her foot, a hatpin in her vagina. Her mother's situation worsens and a nurse is hired. Bill hauls her mother (``disintegrating into Bill's flesh'') onto the tram. They go to the cinema where Bill leaves her with her accumulated love tokens. Has Bill bewitched her mother? Why is her father immobilized by her mother's disappearance? And why is Bill now suffering from her mother's migraines? Don't expect answers. You may not even want them, for Kohler's writing is never quite good enough to pique the reader's curiosity about Bill and her family.