THE METAPHYSICS OF SEX by Valerie Townsend Bayer


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In this second installment of the tetralogy Marlborough Gardens, Bayer moves from the tumultuous youth of City of Childhood (p. 3) to the torrid adolescence of Emma Forster--imaginary Victorian novelist and object of worshipful study by two 20th-century women--in the same pretentious, artificial manner. Psychodramatic to the extreme, Emma's own libidinal impulses, which prompt her to masturbate in her bedroom while eavesdropping on her parents in theirs, pale in comparison to the sordid couplings of the older generation. Father Elijah is insatiable, seducing servants, keeping a mistress, and brutalizing his wife with abandon, while his love for Emma remains sexually charged but proper. He brings a second cousin, Clare, into the household as Emma's tutor, little realizing that she plans to partake of the Forster fortune in a more substantial way. She gives Emma an education surpassing the elite-school training given her brothers, but at the same time is part of the scheme of a master criminal, Nicholas, who happens to be Elijah's unsuspected haft-brother, to ruin the entire Forster family. Nicholas beds the serenely beautiful wife of Elijah's brother while Emma is willingly deflowered by an older family friend; devastated by the thought of another man enjoying his daughter, Elijah suffers heart attacks and becomes an invalid in the prime of life, succumbing finally when Nicholas deliberately provokes him with news of his intentions and his knowledge of Emma's seduction. She, meanwhile, eagerly awaits the young German whom Clara has planned for her to marry--and who arrives bearing gifts in the wake of her father's death. Contrived of letters, diary entries, and pseudo-published material: a tantalizing hodge-podge of vivid impressions, less fragmented than its predecessor but by no means complete.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's