Gates of Paradise CL

Gwyneth Cravens, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $18.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-89919-981-8
The problem with Reverend Melpomene Gilman, one of the two protagonists of Cravens's ( Heart's Desire ) new novel, is that the author has eschewed subtlety in delineating the minister's neurotic personality. If Cravens had balanced this portrayal with a more sympathetic one of James, Melpomene's husband, the narrative might have had some emotional appeal. As it is, however, this hermetic portrait of one day in a rapidly disintegrating marriage is a trial to read. In the chapters told from her point of view, Melpomene reveals herself to be a hypocritical, mendacious, manipulative woman whose self-pity and total lack of insight verge on the pathological. As cloyingly sweet and calm on the outside as she is vituperatively acid within, Melpomene ministers to the needy souls of her parish, submerging their cris de coeur to her own interior monologues. A veteran of two marriages, she has decided to take up again with a former lover, a well-known artist. Meanwhile, fearful, ineffectual art historian James, already anguished about his permanent writing block, tries his wimpish best to ingratiate himself with his harridan wife; seeking to avoid her hysterical rages, he feels guilty for fantasizing about a former lover of his own. Though she demonstrates psychological insight into a particular kind of self-deluding personality, Cravens's tortured excursion into two tormented minds is both melodramatic and unconvincing. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-446-36261-0
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