cover image THE GREEN HOUR


Frederic Tuten, Author . Norton $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-0

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THE GREEN HOURFrederic Tuten. Norton, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 0-393-05105-6

L'heure verte, the magic hour when Parisians go to cafes "to drown themselves in milky green absinthe," represents the exalted state of being that Dominique feels when she's with Rex, the idealistic, charming, magnetic redheaded seeker of truth she meets in college. Dominique, herself a redhead, is in many respects Rex's mirror image; she's brimming with intelligence and discernment, qualities that inspire her career as an art historian. Rex is brilliant, but he's also a manipulative and selfish womanizer and serial heartbreaker. Dominique adores him, helplessly, year after year, even as other, more caring and loving men, enter her life and exit when Rex periodically turns up after a long absence and claims their relationship is all that matters to him. Tuten's portrait of a woman who wastes her life on an ineradicable passion is no ordinary love story. A sophisticated, urbane writer, Tuten (Tintin in the New World) is interested in the relationship between art and life. The background here consists of lucid observations about painting, philosophy and literature (with clever glimpses of academic infighting), so that the novel, while a study of character, embraces art and culture as integral elements. Dominique's decision to switch her area of expertise from passionate Goya to cool, classic Poussin mirrors the downhill course of her emotional life. She truly exists only during her brief, fiery liaisons with Rex, in a relationship that's essentially only the cooling ashes of a dying flame. "Love had been her Death," she realizes, finally. Cleanly reasoned, pellucidly phrased, in some respects this novel is as "bloodless and cerebral" as Poussin's paintings, and yet as infused with emotion as Goya's. Yet its portrait of a modern woman's dilemma is, in the end, genuinely moving. (Oct.)