cover image Silver and Salt

Silver and Salt

Elanor Dymott. Norton, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-23976-8

Family secrets and the burden of having a famous parent are at the center of Dymott’s novel. After the death of her father, 39-year-old Ruthie Hollingbourne, estranged from her family, returns to the Greek villa where she and her older sister, Vinny, spent parts of their childhood. Their father was the famous photographer Max Hollingbourne, and their mother, Sophie, an opera singer. Reunited, the two sisters can’t help but rehash old hurts. At the same time, Ruthie develops an unusual relationship with Annie, a young English girl whose parents are vacationing at the villa next door. There are flashbacks detailing the rarefied environment in which Ruthie and Vinny were raised, with a largely absent father and a mother driven slowly mad by her husband’s disinterest. Ruthie connected with her father through photography, which gave her an understanding of his art. In the end, past and present collide as Ruthie tries to achieve a personal artistic apotheosis. As with her previous novel, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, Dymott excels at creating a hothouse world for her characters to inhabit. Readers will be unprepared when the novel takes a decidedly surprising turn, and though the ending strains belief, the author makes it all hang together. (Apr.)