The Perfect Place

Shelia Kohler, Author, Sheila Kohler, Author, Gordon Lish, Editor Knopf Publishing Group $15.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-394-57373-1
In this relentlessly literary first novel, writing techniques dominate content. Prose in the once avant-garde style of Robbe-Grillet and Duras (theirs stemming from passion, Kohler's a passionless intellectual exercise) evokes the terminal ennui of its narrator, a nameless woman of a certain age tracking down a repressed memory. Supposedly damaged by her upbringing among idle, isolated, rich colonials, and by intimate encounters with females (the first, her mother), she reveals homophobic fantasies rather than psychological truths; her attitude toward sex can be compared to Henry James at his most Victorian. Indeed, one of the few named characters (besides a black servant portentously called Justice) is Daisy Summers, a Daisy Miller mutation. When the narrator finally recalls her trauma, the event and the process of its recovery matter neither to her nor to the reader. Kohler's point is that Donne was wrong, one woman can be an island. And she does prove that, like the sea around us, one slim book seems endless. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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