The Garden of the Peacocks

Anthony Weller, Author Marlowe & Company $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56924-763-1
Weller's debut makes good use of one of literature's more venerable devices: a room, or any constructed space, that serves as a metaphor for one character's mind and soul. Cristobal de la Toree, the world-famous sculptor and Cuban exile, did not die in a sailing accident as the entire world supposes. That was a hoax he cooked up so he could flee to a deserted Bahamian cay that once housed a leper colony. There, accompanied only by his man-Friday, an indispensable fellow named Scully Moses, he has just finished his crowning glory: a labyrinth of murals made of coral mosaic surrounding a garden filled with tame peacocks. Although he jealously guards his secret from the world, Cristobal has sent long, impassioned letters to his estranged daughter, Esther, imploring her to visit him. The novel begins with Esther arriving in Nassau from her adoptive Switzerland, having been seduced by her father's claim that he is dying. Esther hates, fears and wants something from her father. She sees him as a sacred monster who has gone to great lengths to distance himself from her and, she feels, from the haunting memory of her mother. In Nassau, Esther meets American photographer Thomas Simmons, with whom she begins an affair. Frightened of being in love, she hies off to Cristobal's island, where waves of bitterness and resentment rise between father and daughter as predictably as the tides. But it isn't until Thomas, tenacious suitor that he is, arrives on the scene that things get truly ugly. Cristobal's Picasso-like vanity and histrionics become a bit tiresome, and the revelation of his minotaur--the family secret at the center of the labyrinth and the novel--is somewhat anticlimactic. But Weller has written an intelligent meditation on art's rewards-and also on its costs. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-56924-696-2
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