MADELEINE IS SLEEPING

Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Author . Harcourt $22 (259p) ISBN 978-0-15-101059-2

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MADELEINE IS SLEEPING Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum . Harcourt , $22 (272p) ISBN 0-15-101059-5

An immensely obese woman who sprouts two magnificent pairs of wings, a lonely housewife who grows strings to match her husband's viol and a lascivious, wealthy widow are just a few of the fantastical characters who populate the enchanting world of Bynum's debut. Written in brief, dreamy segments (appropriately enough, since the title character has fallen into a Sleeping Beauty–like slumber), the book alternates deftly between reality and illusion as it follows Madeleine down a path of sexual, artistic and personal discovery. In a perverse revisitation of Ludwig Bemelmans's classic children's books, Madeleine, exiled to a Parisian convent from her pastoral French home after committing a rather scientific sex act with the village idiot, joins a band of gypsies who wind up performing for a widow with a love of photography and a penchant for the pornographic. As Madeleine grows entwined in an intensely erotic love triangle with the "flatulent man," M. Pujol, and Adrien, the photographer assigned to document the widow's grotesquely arranged tableaux, life at home grows worse for the family holding vigil over her as she sleeps. The book culminates in a masterful merge between Madeleine's waking life and her dreams, making it impossible to discern whether reality ever existed in Bynum's imaginative tale. Replete with Kafkaesque metamorphoses, Freudian fantasies, Aesopian justice and religious metaphor, the novel is equal parts fairy tale, fable, romance and bildungsroman. At times, the allegorical allusions grow predictable, and some readers may be put off by the constant shifts and uncertainty between fact and fiction. Others looking for a challenging, unusual read will be thrilled by the imagination and mysterious energy that haunt this remarkable debut. Agent, Bill Clegg . (Sept. 4)

Reviewed on: 06/07/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Paperback - 259 pages - 978-0-15-603227-8
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-547-54180-8
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