THE PERFECT PLACE by Sheila Kohler


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A languid, sinuously experimental first novel whose convalescent narrator drifts from one incident and memory to another, unveiling a feckless heart stained by murder. At a Swiss hotel to recover from a vague condition bordering on neurasthenia, the unnamed female narrator is interrupted one evening by the approach of a man who asks if she wasn't a friend of one Daisy Summers. At first no memory of any Daisy surfaces, but upon the man's persistent, intrusive prodding, the narrator begins to recall having known Daisy as an adolescent, then slips into a sensual memory of having shared a dormitory with a group of nubile girls, one of whom may have been Daisy. Later that night, simply because he asks, the narrator lets the man into her bed for sex. Some time later, she moves on, to a town on a lake in Italy, where an encounter with a hirsute German (whom she also lets into her bed--for unconsummated sex) vies for her attention with further, deeper memories: of fleshly, probably incestual, encounters with her widowed mother; of servants and maiden aunts; of seducing--also without consummation--a female schoolteacher into granting her an A; and, finally, with great unease and feverish hallucination, of Daisy's crush on the narrator and a consequent assignation one distant night that, inexplicably, turned into a murderous encounter as the narrator--"filled with a new sense of power"--threw Daisy over a cliff and into the sea, where the sharks fed on her body. Beautifully written and very claustrophobic, like being locked inside a mouldering, velvet-lined coffin. For hyperaesthetes only.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1989
ISBN: 394-57373-0
Publisher: Knopf
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