Joanna

Lisa St Aubin De Teran, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $18.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-88184-690-4
On the surface yet another melodramatic story of a physically and emotionally abused daughter and her monster-like mother, this fifth novel by British writer St. Aubin de Teran ( The Slow Train to Milan ) conveys a special intensity. As the dedication (``For Joan Mary St. Aubin: Joanna )'' confirms, the titular character of this bleak, harrowing novel is the author's mother. Describing herself as huge, gangly and ugly, Joanna narrates the first section of the work, depicting her spectacularly beautiful and cruelly cold mother Kitty, who detests Joanna both for her existence and because she resembles the husband Kitty has fled. Joanna's childhood is a nightmare; she is the victim both of her mother's irrational wrath and of sadistic nuns in the conventsplural ok to which she is banished. Going backward in time, the next two sections are narrated by Kitty and by her mother, Florence. If Kitty resembles a capricious devil, Florence is close to a saint, trying to protect both her daughter and her granddaughter while coping with near-penury and exile from her beloved home on the island of Jersey. As background, the author superbly evokes the feverish atmosphere of both world wars, and the social and economic changes they brought to Britain. If she never satisfactorily explains how the initially bewitching, clairvoyant Kitty turns into a lunatic, it is perhaps because in real life no explanation was available, either. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-85381-287-3
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-88184-814-4
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