Adroitly conceived and subtly developed, EdmÃ‰e is another insinuating Prou heroine, more substantial than some earlier ones, whose passage from brassy adolescence to soiled old age is tastefully, schematically uncoiled. At 14, already seductive, she sets out ""to demolish morality, good behavior, what-will-peoplesay standards,"" shocking her provincial friend/narrator by using weekly church services to screen her rendezvous. And in the years following, political dabbling at the university, WW II collaborations, and flaunted opportunisms net her lovers, husbands, contraband, and a malignant reputation. Also, a father's shameful suicide and a devoted son, Maxime, who deserts her in maturity. Unsavory EdmÃ‰e's inevitable decline into faded beauty (she enters the class of ""women one does not marry"") and lonely alcoholic emptiness is a familiar one, but it is skillfully handled--Prou has the classy phrases and steady distance--as our unheroic heroine comes to resemble those shabby Jean Rhys hangers-on with perjured memory, sold-off furnishings, and simmering regrets. A stylishly atmospheric, darkly winking treat.