Starting with Serge

Laurie Stone, Author Doubleday Books $18.95 (209p) ISBN 978-0-385-26308-5
This first novel by Village Voice writer Stone is built around an irresistible premise--the manipulation of a family by a brilliant but Machiavellian psychoanalyst. Serge Lodst, a Russian emigre whose accent is ``full of Germanic crunches, Slavic slurs and French slides,'' treats the entire Stark family, including Herschel, a coat manufacturer; his wife, Thea, a mah-jongg-playing suburban matron; and their two bored and spoiled teenaged daughters, Madelyn and Julie. Aunts, uncles and cousins are also among his adoring patients who feel they are part of a charmed circle. Set in New York in the '50s and '60s, the story is narrated by Julie, whose encounters with the doctor pivot on his attempts to seduce her. As she grows up, Julie retains shame and ambivalence in her feelings about Serge. When Herschel dies, she looks for answers and ultimately learns to coexist with her rage. Written in clear, imaginative language, the novel moves along gracefully, though rarely achieving any real flights. As a chronicle of postwar New York Jewish life, it's evocative and amusing; as a portrait of the possible abuses of the psychoanalytic relationship, it's a cautionary tale. And the underlying precision and urgency of the narrative one gives the book an almost documentary feeling, which adds a note of real-life verisimilitude. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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