The Possession of Delia Sutherland

Barbara Neil, Author
Barbara Neil, Author Nan A. Talese $22 (227p) ISBN 978-0-385-47215-9
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-7862-0293-5
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``Why can't you give me something simple? Say it in a word, for pity's sake. Something a man can understand.'' Spoken by Delia Sutherland's husband Francis, this motif is the heart of Neil's ( Someone Wonderful ) initially intriguing but ultimately frustrating novel. Though elegantly written, this upscale romance set in contemporary England suffers from the same problem as its heroine, who is inwardly articulate but just too sensitive to speak. It seems a miracle to reserved, awkward Delia that handsome, wealthy Francis wants to marry her. But soon he is chilled by her hypersensitivity--she seems to him ``remote, defiant, eccentric,''--and he dallies with other women. Delia withdraws even deeper into her silences and the couple drifts apart. Francis returns to his estates in the Bahamas, periodically appearing in England in sincere but futile attempts to reconcile. When Francis dies in an accident, Delia is shocked to learn that he has left Sleet, the family holdings in England, to his illegitimate son Leon, who comes to England to claim his inheritance. Vital and alive, Leon is able to warm Delia into a moment of sensuality and tenderness. But even his genuine love cannot thaw Delia's inability to communicate, and again happiness eludes her. As a study of an emotionally constricted woman, this novel holds a certain fascination, but eventually Delia's painful sensitivity wears thin. ( Apr. )
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