Penelope's Hat

Ronald Frame, Author Simon & Schuster $21.5 (440p) ISBN 978-0-671-72616-4
Penelope Milne, a ``mediumly famous'' English novelist, shamelessly makes her life public in her fiction but remains privately haunted by betrayals, family skeletons and messy affairs. Her early childhood in Borneo and move to London, her father's mysterious death, a stint driving an ambulance during WW II and her intense relationship with a controlling mother mold her personality. A too-perfect marriage to banker Guy Gerrault ends with his feigned death and Penelope's belated discovery that he was an impostor. Romantic liaisons with her agent, with a BBC radio producer, with a married publisher and with a reserved Cambridge scholar whose secret life she is totally unaware of provide grist for her literary mill. She never achieves inner equilibrium, however, and after she dies in Australia, her editor pores over Penelope's Hat , her final novel, testament to her loves, losses and self-delusions. The many different hats Penelope wears and discards like so many used selves are the leitmotif of Frame's beautifully nuanced, Jamesian performance. The Glasgow-based writer unravels the weft and warp of experience in intoxicating prose and witty dialogue. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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