Telling Only Lies

Jessica Mann, Author
Jessica Mann, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $19.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-88184-943-1
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Historical elements and a prevailing sense of mystery combine in Mann's ( The Captive Audience ) subtle tale of betrayal, tragedy and escape in pre-WW II Germany. Anne Medlicott, a London novelist, accepts an invitation to appear on a TV talk show. There she's reintroduced to Perdita Whitchurch, a painter whom she'd known decades ago at boarding school. When a third guest at the show exhibits a list of well-placed Englishmen who would have welcomed a Nazi victory, Anne impulsively points out the name of Perdita's father among them; this potentially slanderous incident motivates Anne to pen a manuscript that investigates Perdita's privileged British parents, her own Jewish parents and their German connections. At first, it seems the notion of ``biography'' may not work in this fictional setting. Anne spends the opening pages complaining about the world of lies she inhabits as a novelist, and she is, after all, a character herself. However, with distance from the introduction and its self-fulfilling prophecy, the story eventually engrosses a reader with its complex web of interrelated people and events. By the time Anne's tale comes full-circle to a dramatic, present-day wrap-up, her audience is pleasantly stymied by the twin mysteries of Perdita's dubious parentage and the shadowy betrayer of Anne's father. (June)
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