A Woman of Judah: A Novel and Fifteen Stories

Ronald Frame, Author W. W. Norton & Company $18.95 (354p) ISBN 978-0-393-02692-4
In the title novel of these intricate and brooding fictions about English life (the other 15 pieces in this collection are short stories), Frame recasts the biblical tale of the virtuous wife Susanna accused in her bath. An elderly judge recalls how, as a young lawyer in a gossipy English town in the 1930s, he became obsessed with the case of voluptuous Vivien Davies. Two grotesque elders, finding her barelegged by her garden pool, had charged her with lewd conduct. Over the years, the lawyer tracks Vivien's relations with many men, and continues to ponder the enigma of this sultrily provocative woman. A number of the stories bear thematic affinities with the novel in emphasizing the inscrutably secretive nature of peoples' lives. In ``The Chinese Garden,'' an investigator whose wife has left him takes his small daughter to the scene where a woman was bizarrely murdered and re-creates the act in his imagination. A married man in ``Rendezvous'' carries on an affair with a woman for 25 years, not knowing whether she had aborted their child. The narrator in ``Fruits de Mer'' observes doomed fish swimming in tanks in a restaurant and invents intrigues about the other diners. He confides, ``My `story' is about being on the fringes of other peoples' stories.'' Frame, who lives in Scotland, writes in the manner of an updated Hardy or Meredith. His fiction reveals a ripe, meditative, often voyeuristic view of sexuality as a dark, enmeshing force. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 354 pages - 978-0-370-31134-0
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