cover image The Magician's Girl

The Magician's Girl

Doris Grumbach. MacMillan Publishing Company, $16.3 (200pp) ISBN 978-0-02-546330-1

Initially restrained, this story of three young women coming to maturity in New York City in the 1930s soon becomes engrossing, as the characters quicken into attractive and sympathetic life. They meet at Barnardpretty, middle-class Minna; Liz, a Greenwich Villager mad about photography; and fat, pig-eyed, dough-faced Maud, on scholarship from an obscure upstate high school. Poor and unprepossessing, Maud is a poet who fascinates Leo Luther, arguably the handsomest boy at Columbia. He takes her to bed, marries her, begets upon her twin sons and, predictably, drifts off. Maud's life is thereupon reduced to scribbled-on bits of paper and the detritus left by two neglected children. Although Minnawho becomes a fairly distinguished professor of history and at age 60 falls improbably in love with a youth years her junioris the focal character, and though Liz grows famous for her photographs of the odd and egregious, neither is vibrant enough to move out of Maud's shadow. The author's creation has eluded her control and usurped, willy-nilly, the novel, the lives of her classmates and the imaginations of those who read about her. (January 5)