So I Am Glad

A. L. Kennedy, Author, Al Kennedy, Author Alfred A. Knopf $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-375-40731-4
The mordant--not to say morbid--humor and predilection for cold-bath shock that distinguished Kennedy's first novel published in this country, Original Bliss, mark her even stranger and more ambitious second foray as well. The narrator and protagonist of this story, set in Scotland in 1993, is 35-year-old radio announcer Mercy Jennifer Wilson. She uses the name Jennifer, perhaps because her taste for ruthless, highly choreographed s&m makes Mercy a misnomer. Jennifer wakes up one morning in the house she shares with three roommates--Arthur, a disaffected pastry chef; elusive Liz, (""who has developed being absent into her principal character trait""); and Peter, a do-good crusader to the Balkan states--and meets Martin, the man Peter has found to rent his room while he's in Romania. Or at least she assumes the rumpled, ill-looking man with no memory and a faint electric sheen to his sweat and spit is Martin. As it turns out, however, ""Martin"" is Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, reincarnated after several hundred years in Purgatory, and Jennifer falls in love with him. There are some inconveniences: Savinien is often weak, always proud, tends to go missing and believes fervently in dueling to the death with anyone who dishonors him. Jennifer's most prominent characteristic, she claims at the outset, is her calmness: ""I am not good at emotional payoffs. I am not emotional."" She responds with equanimity to the weirdness that has entered her life, and it is her cool account of the wildly improbable that makes this novel so arresting. Kennedy's deadpan irony--her dialogues, in particular, have a noirish sitcom feel--and her beautiful, translucent descriptive passages project a dreamlike aura over what is finally, despite its narrator's protestations, a moving story. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
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