Bove's ( Quicksand ) new novel is perplexing at the beginning, heart-wrenching in the middle and a tad too long at the end. About emotional torpor and showy middle-class charity, the book, like its protagonist, is decidedly singular. What makes Jean-Marie Thely singular? His father was an officer in the dragoons who raped his mother, a woodcutter's daughter in the town of Compiegne. Trundled from one self-consciously beneficent household to another, Jean is taught to respect middle-class occupations--doctors, lawyers, men of letters--without being given the wherewithal to realize such a position himself. ``There he would discern the mark left by a certain middle class irresponsibility. To bring up a boy to think highly of those careers, and then, one fine day, to cease to care a fig for him.'' Unable to do what he wants, and unwilling to do anything else, he leads a life of absolute indecision. He marries the daughter of one of the bourgeois families he knew in his youth and watches as she takes responsibility for their lives. When she dies, he is supported by her brother, living in a hotel room which he often finds himself unable to leave. Whether portraying Paris's bohemian Latin Quarter or bourgeois Compiegne, Bove has a wonderful descriptive sense that sustains the reader to the last, but he stumbles around to find an ending that, while apt, is a little long in coming. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994 Release date: 01/01/1994 Genre: Fiction
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