Daughters of the House

Michele Roberts, Author William Morrow & Company $18 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-04610-1
Shortlisted for the Booker and winner of the W. H. Smith prize for the best book of 1992, Roberts's richly atmospheric novel (her first to appear here) is a mesmerizing tale of adolescent rivalry, adult deception and a secret involving betrayal and murder. In a lyrical but tersely controlled narrative, Roberts gradually reveals the events 20 years past when Therese Martin, whose parents owned the farm and spacious manor house near the village of Blemont in Normandy, withdrew into a convent after her mother's death and the impending marriage of her father and her aunt. Now Therese's cousin Leonie lives in the house with her husband, whose father's grave in the village cemetery has recently been desecrated, bringing to the surface dark events suppressed since WW II. The narrative flashes back to the cousins' youth; they spend every summer together, first in idyllic companionship, later competing in budding sensuality and religious frenzy. Leonie sees a vision of the Virgin in the woods and Therese, for her own purposes, pretends to do the same. In Roberts's deft hands, the house, the village and the countryside are palpably evoked, and the social nuances of provincial society subtly conveyed. Sensuous images of ripeness and decay underscore the portents of death that run through the narrative. Although the ending seems rushed, with the magnitude of the finally revealed secret not quite commensurate with the ominous foreshadowing, readers will nonetheless be haunted by the story. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1993
Release date: 09/01/1993
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-312-42038-3
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-1-85381-600-0
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-1-4668-5497-0
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