The Keepsake

Kirsty Gunn, Author
Kirsty Gunn, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $22 (224p) ISBN 978-0-87113-675-6
Reviewed on: 12/02/1991
Release date: 12/01/1991
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-0-8021-3559-9
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-1-86207-013-4
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-1-86207-048-6
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-1-86207-062-2
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If it is true that through memory we understand a little more about ourselves, this novel should provide a clear window into its characters' souls. An unnamed young woman recalls--and reenacts in her own life--her mother's painful life as she tries to unravel the secrets behind her early death. Abandoned by her husband, Marianne (the mother does have a name) was consumed by memories of her ""perfect"" European lover, and her life became a cycle of drug abuse and fleeting liaisons. Marianne's daughter now finds that her own life has begun to parallel her mother's, and the story unfolds as if a dream were being retold. Like a dream, it has brief moments of clarity depicted in lovely descriptions. Although the colors and sights she describes are so real they can almost be tasted, New Zealand author Gunn doesn't balance her meticulous detailing of small incidents with relevant information about the protagonists. While the story is carefully arranged and all the characters are in place, each merely plays a role in presenting the fatalistic scenario; curiously, their individual lives seem devoid of conscience or any apparent motivation. This novel lacks the depth and focus of Gunn's first novella (Rain), as well as some of its latent emotion. The narrative drifts through dreams and reality so that the fragmented pieces never form a coherent whole. By the end, when the young woman literally walks out of a door, Gunn leaves us wondering how we could so patiently have listened to a stranger's dream and still know nearly nothing about her. (Apr.)
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