Known for her neatly fashioned romance fiction, Ibbotson (Madensky Square) here collects 19 decorous stories of love gained and lost. With settings that range from the early 1990s to the present day, they generally feature surprise endings, some of them sadly contrived. In the title story, Max, a lawyer and confirmed bachelor in pre-WW I Vienna, attends the opera, where Helene, a singer of Wagnerian heft, is hurt in an onstage accident. She hires Max to file suit; they marry; later, Max takes a mistress. On his wife's death he is free to marry his paramour, but Helene's will dictates otherwise--she knew that forbidden fruit is sweetest. The London grocer in ``Doushenka'' is obsessed by Russia. Traveling to St. Petersburg, he falls in love with a young ballerina, but their relationship is ended by his sacrifice on her behalf, and for the rest of his life he must be content with the memories of his Great Love. A Great Love is the essential element in these old-fashioned tales, of which ``Sidi'' is the most celebratory--and blatantly sentimental. Eschewing the angst and alienation discussed in much contemporary fiction, Ibbotson offers leisurely details of a more genteel era whose passing she obviously laments. Her stories, however, are oversweet and ultimately cloying. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992 Release date: 02/01/1992 Genre: Fiction
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