cover image The House at Belle Fontaine

The House at Belle Fontaine

Lily Tuck. Atlantic Monthly, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2016-8

The 10 stories in the latest collection from National Book Award–winner Tuck (for her novel The News from Paraguay) are compact, intense, and finely crafted. Tuck opens private windows into the lives of women in foreign lands, often on their own after unsuccessful relationships and often set in the past. Creating a decoupage of images and brief exchanges, Tuck pieces together her characters’ stories indirectly, with an economy of words, as in “Pérou,” when an au pair is raped by the family’s chauffeur: “More things tear and break. Poor Jeanne.” This style sometimes gives the writing an opaque quality, as in “My Flame,” when a middle-aged woman thinks back on her discovery of her husband’s betrayal after his death. But the method packs a punch. From blood on the ice around seals encountered by an aging couple on a trip to the Antarctic “looking like paint splashed on a canvas” in “Ice,” to the fatal car crash of another woman’s ex-husband, witnessed by her young tenant and his girlfriend, in “Lucky,” violence is an accepted part of life to the characters who inhabit these stories. These women, unsatisfied with their lives, go searching for answers to their longing, and though they do not find them, the reader understands that the act of striking out away from the known is somehow, itself, enough. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (May)