Forbidden Objects: Marlborough Gardens Quartet

Valerie Townsend Bayer, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-11790-0
With each succeeding volume, Bayer enriches her saga of a wealthy, prominent Victorian family whose decorous facade conceals rampant greed, passion and hatred. Again, as in City of Childhood and The Metaphysics of Sex, she uses the device of a story within a story: in the 1930s, two women collaborate in editing the works of Emma Forster, which chronicled the events that beset the Forster clan in the 1800s. This novel focuses on Emma's activities during the difficult years when her love for her distant cousin Johan Lustig is unrequited. Again, the emphasis is on the characters' hidden lives, heavily influenced by Freudian theories with which Bayer, formerly a practicing psychotherapist, is deeply conversant. Once more Bayer displays a lightly worn erudition in adroit references to the subjects with which a well-educated person of the era would have been familiar: the Greek and Latin classics, ancient history, poetry, art and philosophy. Social mores, too, are effectively illuminated, particularly the subservient position of women in a male-dominated society and the attitudes towards homosexuals at that time. The issue of anti-Semitism in Germany during the 1850s is discussed with candor. While one can admire this mixture of melodrama and psychologically nuanced characterization, however, readers may begin to find Emma's surly moods and bad temper a bit tiresome. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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Hardcover - 978-0-312-10986-8
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