THE ENCHANTMENT OF LILY DAHL by Siri Hustvedt

THE ENCHANTMENT OF LILY DAHL

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Hustvedt's second outing abandons the cerebral regions of postmodernism (The Blindfold, 1992) and turns to the familiar melodramas of small-town gothic. Nineteen-year-old Lilly Dahl lives in Webster, Minnesota, rooms over the main-street cafe where she works as waitress, and has ambitions of becoming an actress--she's learning, in fact, the role of Hermia for a local production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The dream-world of Shakespeare's play and the events here befalling the hapless Lilly are often dovetailed neatly enough by Hustvedt, but at the same time her heroine's credibility-stretching tale of perversion, mystery, and obsession groans with the familiar. The seeming start of things was the long-ago killing of a woman named Helen Bodler, whose farmer husband is said by some to have buried her alive. Waitress Lilly serves breakfast daily to Helen's now-grown sons, the demented and unwashed bachelor farmers Frank and Dick, and to another distant relative of the dead Helen's, the eccentric loner Martin Petersen, ex-childhood playmate of Lilly herself. When eerie things start happening, then, there is no dearth of suspects--excluding neither Mabel Wasley, Lilly's 78- year-old neighbor who types all night and has secrets aplenty up her sleeve, nor Ed Shapiro, the handsome artist and out-of-towner who knows all about opera, works on his mysterious canvases all night--and steals Lilly's susceptible heart. When new murders and spectral sightings (of Lilly herself, no less) are reported, our feisty heroine turns fearless gumshoe (``She froze and held her breath. . . . But Lily knew that she was going to lurch headlong into whatever was waiting for her''), managing finally not only to expose all but to play a cool hand when Ed Shapiro at last offers to waft her away to New York City. Mystery, murder, and provincial caricatures, all in a readable but curiously dusty mix from a writer whose aims seemed higher the first time around. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-4920-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996




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