THE POLLEN ROOM by Zoë Jenny

THE POLLEN ROOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Said to be a grand success in Europe, 24-year-old Jenny’s novel, to a reader this side of the Atlantic, seems to be made mainly of youthful airs and posturings. When she’s a preschooler (in 2000, she tells us, she—ll be 24) and her mother leaves, Jo stays with her heavy-smoking father, who, as a labor of love, publishes books—and who takes up also, for a while, with the boozy and blowsy Eliane. Later, Jo is 18 or so and old enough to escort her reappeared mother Lucy to her shrink appointments—these needed, we learn, because of Lucy’s breakdown after the death-by-car (or suicide-by-car) of Alois, Lucy’s painter-lover. Exactly why Jo has gone back to stay with her mother isn—t altogether clear, but that Lucy is a lightweight mom and that the relationship is very iffy indeed are evident enough. The heavy significance of the failed mother-child bond that’s clearly felt by Jo, however, fails to translate into anything even remotely felt by the reader, with disastrously thinning effects for the novel. During her breakdown, Lucy closed herself in an empty room with nothing in it but gathered pollen—a fact that gives the book its title but little else, since elsewhere Lucy seems little more than a shallow middle-ager looking for a rich man and hoping not to get wrinkly too fast. Jo, meanwhile, suffering through her impacted case of angst, meets wannabe pop singer Luciano; street musician Rea; takes Ecstasy; goes to a rave; has sex; gets pregnant; has “the abortion—; then the breakdown; makes a last visit to father (a nonsmoker now, with a new, pregnant wife); and at end walks alone to the outskirts of town to watch the snow fall. Effortful throughout, and maybe even deeply felt. The result, though, is no more moving than a long pout, like living for 160 pages with a teenager who knows nothing and insists on telling you all of it.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85458-9
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999