A Little Stranger

Candia McWilliam, Author
Candia McWilliam, Author Doubleday Books $15.95 (181p) ISBN 978-0-385-26309-2
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
A contemporary The Turn of the Screw , McWilliam's slim second novel (after A Case of Knives ) did very well in England, but may be less successful here. There is no mistaking, however, that this is the work of a talented writer. Precisely articulated, carefully structured and tightly controlled, the story is narrated by Daisy, the young wife of a rich man living on a country estate, who hires Margaret Price as a nanny for her little boy. Addicted to wearing cute clothes decorated with adorable animals, Margaret seems an exemplary nanny, even, Daisy convinces herself, ``perfection.'' In the languid torpor of a new pregnancy, complicated by a deep-seated depression about her place in the world and ``a perverse will to be polite at any cost,'' Daisy blinds herself to the dangerous character of super-efficient, humorless Margaret--until it is almost too late. McWilliam gives Daisy a sardonic voice, appropriate to her trenchant asides about behavior in the top strata of British society; these mordant observations grant the novel its edge. Although tautly measured to achieve mounting tension, the narrative is, in the end, a little too mannered and pretentious, and Daisy too self-centered to win the reader's sympathy. (July )
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