cover image Elizabeth Cole

Elizabeth Cole

Susan Cheever. Farrar Straus Giroux, $18.95 (211pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14657-3

The heroine of Cheever's latest novel, following Doctors and Women , is a 30-year-old New York graphic designer whose father is a famous artist. When first met, Elizabeth is involved in an intense affair with Sebastian Smith, a successful, married art dealer; she is still haunted by memories of her former lover, journalist Patrick Casey, with whom she broke up over her decision to have an abortion (he had opted for marriage and the baby). Over the course of a year, Cheever traces the development of Elizabeth's affair with Sebastian, through his divorce and into their eventual unhappy marriage. During this time, Elizabeth's father has a heart attack, Patrick uncovers an art-dealing scam in which Sebastian is involved, and Elizabeth finally acknowledges her own artistic impulses, although she has always determined not to be an artist. At the end, on her way back to Patrick, Elizabeth tells her psychiatrist that, though she's always tried desperately to be ``normal,'' she has now changed. It's not a convincing statement. Despite the believable, lively art-world setting and meticulously observed scenes of passion, Cheever's story remains curiously static, distant and cool at the center. (Nov.)