The Poison Heart

Amanda Hemingway, Author Simon & Schuster $19.45 (319p) ISBN 978-0-671-70975-4
The latest by the British author of Pzychestet and Tantalus gives a detailed account of the lives, loves and obsessions of the Van Leer family, prominent in English social and art circles, but lacks the glamour or drama to make up for its inadequate characterizations and implausible plot twists. Famous architect Rupert Van Leer allows his obsession with his wife, who died in childbirth, to lead to adoration of the first of the couple's twins, Diana, and hatred of the second, Elspeth, whom he blames for his loss. The tragic death of perfect Diana and Elspeth's subsequent psychological suffering and eventual emergence as a chic and talented artist only confirm Rupert's prejudices. Although he marries Nicky Simpson, a fortune-seeker adept enough to make herself over into a copy of Diana, Rupert remains incapable of warmth. Elspeth--now the beautiful Elsa--is bent on winning Rupert's love, and blames Nicky for her father's continuing indifference. Few other clues to her motives are provided as she takes her revenge and tries to frame Nicky. Suddenly and inexplicably, the protagonist becomes the villain, but the change isn't believable given the distance established between the narrator and the characters; there's little reason to sympathize with Elsa, whose innermost thoughts during this metamorphosis aren't revealed to the reader. Passably written, the novel provides a little diversion but no fascination. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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