The Well

Elizabeth Jolley, Author Viking Books $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-670-81103-8
The suspense in this chilling novel by the awesomely talented Australian writer ( Miss Peabody's Inheritance is ignited in the very first line, when Hester Harper's ancient father asks her what she has brought him from the store. She has in fact brought the pale orphan Kathy, for herself, to cherish and teach, to add a grace note to the dirge of life on their South Australian farm. Rigid Hester wears a special boot on her congenitally twisted foot, and Kathy stirs in her the forbidden feelings roused long ago by her German governess. Now she expresses them in lavish gifts to Kathy, in days of wrenching closeness while the two bake, preserve and sew together. When her father dies, Hester's prodigality forces her to sell her property and rent a cottage in a remote corner of the vast acreage that had once been hers. She agrees reluctantly to take Kathy to a dance, lets her drive home and is panic-stricken when their pickup truck strikes something large and human, which they prod with the truck's fender into the well. Events then take an even more surprisingand grislyturn, and the ending is left deliberately ambiguous. The lump never leaves the reader's throat; suspicion and horror multiply; here is a book that will not let you go. (November)
Reviewed on: 10/28/1986
Release date: 11/01/1986
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