Secret Lives

Max Egremont, Author Dutton Books $18.95 (205p) ISBN 978-0-525-24834-7
In this subtle and compelling novel by British author Egremont ( The Ladies' Man ; Dear Shadows ), the legacy of a dead woman, beautiful Catherine Layburn, haunts three men--her aristocratic widower, Bob; her friend and confidant Philip Bligh; and above all, the shyly sensitive young art historian George Loftus, engaged to restore her portrait. The setting is northern England; specifically Cragham, in medieval times a castle stronghold and now a great house filled with priceless art objects. Assigned to work in a disused upstairs room, George discovers Catherine's intimately confessional journal. He reads it obsessively, entering her vanished world almost in a state of trance. Catherine's diary unmasks the apparently gentle Bob as a callous, brutal lover: her account of their wedding night forms the novel's centerpiece as a triumph of psychological revelation. She pities Philip, who is tormented by his passion for a shallow, vicious boy named Juan; recognizes the bond between Philip and her husband, who in wartime had shared ``some incident in the desert''; and revels in a love affair of her own. Immersed in the mystery of Catherine, George finds himself baffled by the tantalizing border between actuality and fantasy. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
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