HOUSE OF WOMEN

Lynn Freed, Author . Little, Brown $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-66633-6

Secrets twine around secrets in this haunting, intimate novel about the power of desire and the stifling force of isolation. Born to a wealthy womanizer and a vain opera singer, Theadora grows up on an estate with her mother, Nalia, at the southern tip of Africa. She is both spoiled and sheltered, never allowed to leave home unescorted. When Nalia goes inland for weekend sessions with her therapist, Katzenbogen, the maid, Maude, is left in charge. No man, not even Thea's father, is allowed up to the house. Later, it is clear why the gate is always padlocked; unbeknownst to her, 17-year-old Thea has been promised to her father's middle-aged cousin, a Syrian. He takes advantage of Thea's eagerness to see the world beyond her front yard, not to mention her yearning for male attention, and lures her from her haven. They quickly marry aboard a ship—"And so it is done. I am to be married to a man whose name I do not know"—and speed off to his nameless island home. Only there does Thea realize that this adventure might have serious consequences and question why the Syrian wanted her. The truth hardens her resolve to escape and see her mother again. Like a Jean Rhys antiheroine, Theadora strikes out fiercely against the world, but is helpless in the face of male desire. And like Rhys, Freed (The Mirror) imagines a world in which major events are only ambiguously described, but domestic details are sensuously immediate. This otherworldly tale philosophizes smartly on what it is to crave love and to sacrifice clarity for passion. 3-city author tour. (Feb. 12)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-316-09556-3
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