Mary Flanagan, Author W. W. Norton & Company $22 (245p) ISBN 978-0-393-04547-5
The bizarre erotic life of a beautiful freak is revealed through the clouded memories of an elderly Englishwoman in this audacious and imaginative novel, the fifth fictional work from Flanagan (The Blue Woman). The narrative begins in 1990s London when feminist journalist Celia Pippet sets out to uncover the history of an expensive Parisian prostitute named Adele, who was forced into the trade as an adolescent in pre-WWII France. Celia makes a week-long journey through France with her old filmmaker friend Martin and an American academic named Tamara, ""America's leading female authority on prostitution.'' Along the way the trio uncover clues to Adele's exploitation, get to know each other in altogether new ways and, finally, in Bez, locate elderly Blanche Jessel, whose brother, a gynecologist, experimented on the captivating child, pimping her to pay for his experiments. Blanche recounts her love affair with Adele, and her recollections are interspersed with the present-day action. The narrative sets up a tension between once-frigid Blanche's fervid awakening to passion and Celia's abandonment of her own, quite different scruples, as she ventures further into Adele's shrouded past. As both a satirist of contemporary academic culture and an erotic fantasist interested in Adele's lingering sway over the hearts of her lovers and historians, Flanagan never loses our attention in this sexy, creepy (and surprisingly humorous) mini-mystery. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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