Poet and Dancer

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Author Doubleday Books $19.95 (199p) ISBN 978-0-385-46869-5
The 16th novel by this acclaimed novelist (whose Heat and Dust won the Booker Prize) and screenwriter ( Howards End ) showcases both her elegant Jamesian prose style and her at times frustratingly lethargic story lines. The poet of the title is serious, plain Angel; her beautiful, attention-seeking cousin Lara is the dancer. They grow close as adults, when their relationship becomes openly pathological: Lara doesn't work, sleeps around, takes drugs, and lies; Angel, her roommate, assumes the burden of caring for her, bringing ridicule and blame on herself in the process. Set in not quite contemporary New York City, the novel has an Indian element in Jhabvala's portrayal of two New Delhi natives--Mrs. Arora, Angel's mother's business partner, and her son Rohit, who becomes Angel's best friend. A subplot involves Angel's enfeebled grandmother Koenig, whose imposing, beautifully described apartment is tended by a succession of perhaps light-fingered maids. In the foreword, the third-person narrator's tantalizing query about the ratio of truth to fiction in any life story raises questions about the story proper: Is Lara insane, or just immature? Are the cousins opposite poles in any human soul--rebellious and compliant? Are Angel and Rohit male and female manifestations of a single passive being? Such intellectual contemplation, prompted by exquisite dialogue and polished sentences, may satisfy some readers, but not likely those who seek significant character development and a definitive conclusion. Major ad/promo. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1993
Release date: 02/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 199 pages - 978-0-385-46887-9
Hardcover - 978-0-688-11964-5
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